ST. GEORGE — Members of the St. George City Council voted Thursday to raise their pay for the first time in over two decades.
During the council’s regularly scheduled meeting, all five council members voted in favor of amending a city ordinance to increase their annual pay by about 66 percent, from $12,000 to $20,000. The ordinance also includes a $20,000 pay bump for the mayor, from $30,000 to $50,000 annually.
“Elected office, of course, is voluntary – nobody forces you to run – but as with other cities and towns, we do provide compensation to the mayor and the City Council in recognition of the costs that you incur in the office, both in terms of money and time,” City Manager Adam Lenhard said.
The last pay increase voted into law was in 1996 when the city had a population of 44,000, nearly half the size of its current population.
“The size and complexity of the city has grown significantly, as have the demands placed on the mayor and council in your roles as elected officials,” Lenhard told the assembled council. “We recognize you’re probably busier than ever.”
Lenhard worked with city staff to determine a compensation level appropriate for 2018, examining the pay schedule of elected officials in comparable cities throughout the state.
“We know that you can’t make a living off of your city paycheck, and all of you rely on employment elsewhere to make ends meet,” Lenhard said. “But hopefully the compensation that you’re provided offsets the cost just enough so that elected office is something that anyone in our community could be involved with.”
Ultimately, Lenhard said, they settled on a pay rate that “accurately reflects” the amount of time city officials put into the job.
“We attempted to be fair without being excessive, recognizing, of course, that these are taxpayer dollars,” he said. “These are not intended to be full-time salaries. Obviously, if they were, they’d be a lot higher than they are.”
Baked into the amended compensation ordinance are several new provisions, including a clause allowing elected officials’ salaries to increase based on cost-of-living adjustments in the same way the pay rate of city employees is adjusted.
These adjustments will be made annually when the city’s budget is drafted, St. George City Attorney Shawn Guzman said.
The amended ordinance also allows elected officials to participate in the same benefits plan as full-time city employees and allows access to other employee benefits, such as wellness programs. The ordinance also states that they may be compensated for personal vehicle use and the use of electronic devices for city-related business.
Mayor Jon Pike and Councilman Ed Baca emphasized that their pay increases were only considered after the city made “significant” adjustments to the pay structure of city employees, increasing salaries and improving benefit offerings.
“That’s important to us that we take care of all the employees in the city,” Pike said. “They are our most precious resource.”
City officials say they implemented the changes for the benefit of future mayors and council members, not just themselves.
“Twenty-two years is a long time to not have any adjustment, and we’re all very sensitive on this issue,” Pike said. “It’s something we’ve talked about for a while, and it’s difficult to sometimes want to give yourselves a raise, but it’s not just about those that occupy the seats at this time.”
Before the council’s unanimous vote to approve the measure, Pike opened the proposal for a public hearing, but no one in the audience at the meeting gave comment.
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