A three-fold pay increase for the Moab City Council is being considered as officials continue to discuss a tentative 2019-20 budget.
Moab City Finance Director Rachel Stenta said on May 21 that the city’s tentative budget figures posted with the council’s agenda are being updated and revised following a hearing on May 14 when errors were realized.
Stenta and Moab City Manager Joel Linares said the city council’s agenda packet released on Friday, May 24, will show the revised figures for the salaries, wages and benefits in the proposed budget.
Stenta said each council member currently makes about $8,500 per year, but the proposed budget would raise it to $25,192 annually for each council member.
And while the council members don’t currently receive health and retirement benefits, the proposed budget adds $6,550 annually for those benefits for each council member.
The city’s fiscal year budget is for July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020, and the pay raise for this budget would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2020. The city’s 2019-20 fiscal year (July of 2019 through June 2020) proposes a prorated pay for the council at $103,000; in subsequent years, where no proration is calculated and the pay is effective in the entire budget, the total annual pay for council is proposed at $158,713.
The change isn’t going to be made quickly if it is approved. The council will meet on Tuesday, May 28, to discuss and possibly vote on approving the budget, and if it’s approved, a public hearing will be held at a later date.
“Council can vote to adopt the budget as early as May 28 … but it’s not approved until the public hearing on the pay,” Linares said.
He said the public hearing, if the budget is approved at the May 28 council meeting, would likely be scheduled during the June 11 meeting.
To determine the pay raise amount, Stenta said a city council salary survey was conducted “based on other areas in the region that have part-time councils and mayors” and sent to council members for review. In a graph shared by Stenta, the survey of part time city council with health insurance averages the total pay to be about $13,500.
The proposed budget also increases the pay for the mayor to $25,192, but not by a three-fold increase since the mayor’s current salary is about $11,000 annually, Stenta said. The mayor would also receive the same $6,550 in benefits proposed for the city council members.
When asked for comment on the proposed pay raise in the budget, Moab City Council member Tawny Knutson-Boyd doesn’t think the pay raise is reasonable for the city and is hoping for more people to weigh in on the issue.
“I’m not supporting it the way it stands,” she said. “I think that there is value in public service and that’s what we are supposed to be. It’s service, it’s not a job. I would support a reasonable increase, but a three-fold increase is not reasonable, especially with benefits,”
Council member Rani Derasary said she wants to clarify expectations with the council on the issue — would council members be expected to work more along with the pay raise?
“I feel like the whole group needs to discuss it,” Derasary said.
She said she has “very mixed feelings” about the proposal.
“On the one hand, I feel like it is public service so maybe we should just leave it that way,” Derasary said. “On the other hand, the county [council] went way up … certainly with this current council, everyone is working their butts off but … we need to have discussion about that.”
Her other main concern is “where [the pay raise] was coming from in the budget from a fiscal standpoint.”
“I just hope that people will actually look at the budget and give us their feedback,” Knutson-Boyd said. “I have gotten some feedback and it has not been positive.”
Stenta and Linares said it has been many years since the council received a significant pay raise. However, council has received adjustments for cost of living.
“One of the key components is that there has not been a substantial increase to elected officials’ compensation in the last 20 years,” Stenta said. “It has probably been longer than that.”