Council members vote to raise pay

At its final meeting of 2017, the City Council voted to raise the annual pay of its members and the mayor by $10,000.

Beginning in 2018, the annual salary for a council member is $98,695. The city’s freshly sworn-in mayor, Jacob Frey, will earn $126,528 a year.

All 12 council members present at the Dec. 15 meeting voted in favor of the motion. Council Member Abdi Warsame was absent.

Outgoing City Council President Barbara Johnson, who introduced the resolution at what was her final meeting, said it was necessary “because we have fallen behind as council members in some really challenging times.”

“Generally, this will put us on par with other full-time councils across the country, including Denver and Boston,” Johnson said. “We’ll still be $20,000 less than Portland and Seattle.”

Johnson added that City Council member salaries had over the past decade also fallen behind a comparable group of city employees in management positions.

In St. Paul, the City Council is considered a part-time job. Members of that body earn about $63,000 per year, Johnson noted.

She said Frey’s pay would now be in line with St. Paul’s new mayor, Melvin Carter.

The salary motion didn’t go through any committee meetings before it appeared on the Council’s final meeting agenda for the year, drawing some criticism for the lack of public oversight of the process.

“Transparency is critical and I would’ve preferred it followed the normal process,” Frey said in December.

“It really could and should have been on the agenda,” agreed City Council Member Linea Palmisano.

Still, the Ward 13 council member said she was supportive of the raises. Compensation for council members should both reflect the demands of the role and be attractive to a diverse group of candidates.

“This needs to be somebody’s real job,” Palmisano said.

The higher salaries were paid for by taking back some of the funds allocated to city departments in the 2018 budget, which council members voted to adopt earlier in December. Appropriations for the offices of the city clerk and city coordinator were reduced, as were those for various city departments, including health, finance and property services, Community Planning and Economic Development, regulatory services and human resources.

City spokesperson Sarah McKenzie noted in a statement that “each of the affected departments” was funded in the 2018 budget “above and beyond current service levels.” She added that pay hikes amounted to less than 0.01 percent of the 2018 city budget.

“The City anticipates no negative impact to current services provided to those who live, work and play in Minneapolis as a result of this council action,” she wrote.

The one-time increase will be followed by annual adjustments over the four-year term for the elected offices. Future pay hikes for the mayor and City Council will be an average of the salary increases called for in the city’s collective bargaining agreements.