Wagga councillors are eligible for a higher salary, which has divided opinion among community leaders.
The city of Wagga has moved from the regional rural category to regional centre in the latest Local Government Remuneration Tribunal report, meaning the councillors will be entitled to a pay packet of up to $24,320, which is an increase of $4040.
The mayor is eligible for an additional fee of up to $60,080, which is almost $16,000 more than usual.
It is a move that Wagga mayor Greg Conkey supports given that councillors in regional NSW are "poorly paid" in comparison to civic leaders serving in other states like Queensland where councillors in cities of a similar size could receive payments of upwards of $80,000.
"It is becoming more and more strenuous and there is a lot of reading involved. We have to be across a lot of issues," he said. The low pay and long hours restricts the type of candidates vying for a spot at the table, he said.
Former councillor Mary Kidson, however, said she "could not justify" a pay rise because the demands on a councillor were not that great, besides reading material from home.
"I don't think the argument for it is strong. It should be left where it was because by and large council covers the various costs demanded," she said. Ms Kidson added that councillors should not have the power to set their own allowance each year, but rather it should be decided by an independent agency.
"It always irked me ... that councillors were enabled and required to set what they take themselves," she said. "Human nature being what it is, they would go for the maximum amount permitted."
The Greens ticket leader Jenny McKinnon said the role of an elected representative was "unaffordable" for most people who still rely on a full-time income.
Unless people were "independently wealthy or retired," Ms McKinnon said it is "extremely difficult" to juggle full-time employment alongside the work that is expected of a councillor.
This, she said, deterred people from representing their community and therefore voters had fewer candidates to choose from.
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"I do feel that a reasonable recompense would make it possible for us to have a better democratic process," she said.
"We need really good people representing the people of Wagga, who know about the issues and who are interested in serving the community."
Wagga councillor Paul Funnell said a realistic salary has the potential to attract "better and a more informative calibre of people".
But he said a pay rise was not appropriate at this point in time amid the coronavirus downturn.
North Wagga Resident Association treasurer Fiona Ziff said the higher wage would be reasonable given the work that lies ahead as the city grows.
However, she said it was only suitable if those elected were "committed, do the homework and represent the community," which she believes is lacking at present.