ROCKLAND — The Rockland City Council will hold a public hearing Sept. 13 on whether to place a referendum on the November ballot to increase their annual pay from $800 to $4,000.

If approved by voters, this would be the first pay hike since 1980.

The proposal is for councilors to be paid $4,000 and the mayor $4,500. In addition, the charter change would include an annual cost-of-living increase beginning July 1, 2022.

Councilors will take a final vote Sept. 13, following the public hearing.

Councilor Sarah Austin said an increase would allow poor people to serve on the Council, not just the wealthy and people with infinite time on their hands. This would allow people, who have to pay for child care to serve, to be able to afford to run.

Councilor Louise MacLellan-Ruf said she knows there are people who post insults on social media about the Council. She said it will be easier for people who serve to take insults if they can afford child care or an extra cup of coffee.

The City Council pay is set by the Rockland charter with councilors each receiving $800 per year, while the mayor receives $1,000 in Rockland. The mayor moderates council meetings, nominates members to municipal committees, works with the administration on setting agendas and officiates at ceremonies.

That pay was set in 1980, when voters approved revisions to the Rockland Charter.

The Bureau of Labor Services reports the cost of living increased 327% since 1980. If the pay was tied to inflation, councilors would receive $2,614 and the mayor $3,270.

The last time a pay hike for councilors was proposed in Rockland was in 2002. In that year, voters rejected a charter referendum by a 1,419 to 715 vote that would have increased councilors pay to $2,000, with the mayor getting $2,500.

The city gathered information on what other communities pay their elected officials. The highest was Owls Head which pays its selectboard member $3,580 with the chair receiving $4,676. Owls Head does not have a town manager and perform administrative duties.

Camden pays $2,000 which includes $500 for their role as wastewater commissioners. Brewer pays $1,000 for councilors and $1,200 for its mayor. Belfast pays $2,000 for councilors and $2,500 for the mayor.