VILLAGE COUNCIL SALARY INCREASE PROPOSAL COULD GO TO VOTE

The increase in the annual salary of an Islamorada board member could make its way onto the ballot in the November elections.

Citing the need to attract more candidates, Councilman Mark Gregg said council members’ pay of $1,000 a month hadn’t changed since the early 2000s. The idea received verbal support from the stage at a meeting on March 10, as well as several residents who regularly attend village meetings.

An ordinance with the specified salary increase would require council approval before going to voters for a “yes” or “no” vote in the November general election. No dollar amount has yet been set from the stage.

If approved by voters, a salary increase would take effect once the new board is sworn in.

Gregg raised the issue during the discussion portion of the meeting inside the Founders Park Community Center. In his comments, Gregg said the vast majority of village elections see people registering to run who are “financially well-off” and someone who “doesn’t necessarily have to work for a living.” Raising wages, he said, could take the worry out of those who want to run but can’t miss a day’s work.

“It won’t be a lot of money. It may not cover this (financial concern). As you know from our time there, this is a part-time job. I don’t think I made minimum wage, but that’s okay. I signed up because I like it, not because I did it for the money.

“It’s not so much about providing a financial incentive as it is about removing the economic disincentive people face when considering running for office,” Gregg continued.

A pay chart presented at the dais showed pay rates in Florida municipalities. Key West’s seven commissioners earn $20,000 a year, while Marathon council members earn $21,000 (except for one who earns $18,000 with $771.31 a month for the pension system of Florida). Marco Island Commissioners only earn $6,000 per year, while Treasure Island Commissioners receive $5,400 per year. Ormond Beach Commissioners receive $14,494.75 per year.

“I was surprised to learn that they were lower than I thought in most cases,” Gregg said. “If we decide that’s something that we think should happen, that’s ultimately the decision of the voters. They can make the call. That’s what I like the most about it.

Resident Van Cadenhead said he thought the council deserved the pay rise.

“We’re paying $60,000 to have five of you sitting there. If you were to go over it at $100,000, which means each of you earns $20,000, I don’t think it would be outrageous,” he said.

Councilman Buddy Pinder agreed with Gregg’s sentiments to attract other village residents who want to show up.

Islamorada Councilor Buddy Pinder prepares for the March 10 meeting inside the Founders Park Community Center. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

“We are never going to attract young people to do this. I spoke to many of them. They can’t do it,” he said. “If I’m a fisherman, I can’t come and give up one day a week to go to meetings or whatever. Others just can’t do it. They couldn’t take the time.

Mayor Pete Bacheler said he gave up a lot to be a councilman to make “our city a better place to live.” Bacheler said $1,000 goes nowhere between inflation and what’s happening in the market.

“You shouldn’t have to be a millionaire or near-millionaire to sit on our board. I’m not even close to that and I’m having a good time here,” he said.

Resident John Kocol said the council was significantly underpaid. He said a former manager told him he needed 20 hours a week to read all the information presented to the board. A former councilman told him it takes 25 hours a week to do the job properly.

“At current wage levels, it’s $9.23, which is less than minimum wage in the state of Florida,” he said. “Under our current system, the only economic incentive to run for council is to protect and/or enhance the economic interests of the person running. The majority of former councilors had an economic interest in the village. Very few have not had to weigh conflicts of interest when discussing and voting on land use issues. »

In theory, Kocol said if the council compensation package was $40,000 a year, it would be less than 0.5% of the village’s recurring revenue.

“If you look at that, given a 25-hour work week, that $40,000 a year is $31 an hour, which is less than what a licensed plumber and electrician makes,” did he declare.

Village manager Maria Bassett said Kocol’s suggestion of $40,000 was “very good”. Bassett advised against adding health benefits.

“I know how our health plan is right now, we wouldn’t be able to add board members to it,” she said. “It could have an effect on our options for employees if we start including board members. A simpler approach might be to simply increase the monthly compensation. If you buy health insurance, I hope you can do it with this compensation.

Councilman Dave Webb said if the goal was to reach a younger population, the salary should be more than $2,000 a month.

“Even a backcountry captain, they’re going to give up a few days a week to do this half-heartedly, it’s a huge waste of income,” he said. “Do they (the audience) want four older white men to make decisions or would they like a broader demographic of the community in terms of age, female or male, or whatever ?”

The village council members asked the staff to bring back an order for a salary increase proposal at an upcoming meeting. As for the specific figure, council members want to know more about the public before coming up with a number.

“It’s to correct a problem that I think has become critical in the village,” Gregg said. “I think if we had done this years ago, if someone on the council was a salaried employee or a mother or a single father, we might not be in the mess we are in now with a affordable housing, because there would have been a voice at the table to move this forward.

An election in November will see five vacancies and members’ two-year terms come to an end. It is possible that the board could completely flip over or see a partial rollover.