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Chatan assembly members fight new salary reductions

Date Posted: 2007-03-16

Chatan’s Assembly members drew battle lines this week in heated arguments over having their salaries slashed.

Budget cutbacks have forced Chatan Town, along with many other Okinawa communities, to whittle their expenses to stay afloat. For the senior local government officials, that meant payroll cuts.

The mayor and deputy mayor took the initiative by cutting their pay by ¥2,000 a month, and demanded the assembly members do the same. The 18-member Assembly began debating calmly, but the issue brought tempers flaring.

“Even now, our current salary is too low. How can we live?” was the cry from eight Assembly members. “If it’s too low a salary, nobody will want to become a Chatan Town Assembly member,” complained another. Ten others disagreed with the opposition lawmakers, telling them “Sure. We should reduce our salaries because we do have a problem.”

Leading Assembly members said cutting salaries ¥1,000~2,000 per month would mean a ¥29,000 savings that could be applied to other budget uses. “Couldn’t we cut from somewhere else,” the opposition asked. “Like for instance, let’s cut the education budget.” They pointed out Chatan Town sends junior high school students to England to study English, and said that should be cut from the budget.

Others challenged the opposition, telling them “You guys must be out of your minds! You can’t cut the education budget. Children are the future of our town, so never cut the education budget.”

After the wrangling, the vote carried and Assembly salaries are being cut in varying amounts between ¥1,000~2,000 per month. The amounts are different because of circumstances in individual assemblyman areas.

Chatan Town’s assembly members make ¥247,000 per year, on average. The chairman gets ¥320,000 and the vice chairman ¥260,000. By comparison, Naha City Assembly members make more than ¥550,000.

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