Published On: Wed, Feb 17th, 2016

Our Elected Officials Deserve a Raise

Are the elected officials in Boca Raton paid enough? Taxpayers are expected to decide in the August presidential primary election whether to give the mayor and council members a raise.

The city council recently voted 4-1 to ask the voters to settle the issue.

While I am a big proponent of volunteer service, I am in favor of giving them a fair stipend considering the amount of work that accompanies the job.

And while I think that compensation for civic service should not be expected in what should essentially be a volunteer job, I also think that if the salary was higher, it would likely attract a kind of competent person who might otherwise be more concerned about the city’s affairs than their salary.

The mayor currently makes roughly $750 a month or $9,200 annually. Under the proposal, that stipend would increase to $38,355 annually. That is about 40 percent of what a Palm Beach County commissioner makes.

The four city council members earn $600 a month or $7,200 annually. This plan, if passed, will increase their pay to $28,776 per year, or 30 percent of a county commissioner’s salary.

The last time our city council members received a salary increase was in 1984. They pushed again in 2004 and 2006 to get an increase but both attempts failed. 

If approved, the new pay hike should put their salaries in par with salaries of other elected officials around Palm Beach County.

It is important to know that Boca Raton is the largest of the three cities in the southern part of the county. Yet, council members are the lowest paid in the tri-city area. The mayor in Boynton Beach earns a base salary of $18,809.42 while city commissioners earn $15,675.18.

And in Delray Beach, the mayor receives $13,000 and commissioners $9,970 annually respectively.

I think the pay our elected officials receive is certainly not proportional to the amount of time many put into the job. They go to meetings and community events, they field concerns and complaints daily from the residents they represent.

Our elected officials also serve on as many as 13 state, regional and county boards, as well as attend retreats and conferences that can last several days. And then they are invited to several events around town. Generally, if they attend, they are expected to speak.

I am sure that between attending meetings, answering calls and emails from city staff and citizens, reviewing proposals and agendas, appearing at events, going to conferences and everything else, they spend almost as much time on city business as they do on their day jobs.

If voters approve the salary hike, it will take effect October 1, 2016.

I also think Boca Raton has grown to the size where it needs a full time mayor. When you look around town at the growth, it only makes sense that the style of government changes with the times.

Take West Palm Beach, for example, which has a mayor-led government, the point can be made that the type of leadership is largely responsible for the city’s success. There would still be a need to an administrator or perhaps two assistant managers to assist the mayor. However, that is a topic for another column.

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