Whomever wins the next election cycle to represent Mesa on the City Council and as mayor will receive a higher salary than their predecessors due to a recent decision by the current council.
During the council’s Dec. 9 meeting, members approved a pay raise for all councilmembers and the mayor that will begin once the next City Council is sworn in after the 2014 election. Starting January 2015, the mayor will earn $73,545 — up from the current salary of $33,600 — while councilmembers will have their pay increase from $16,800 to $36,832.
The vote also included a bump in vehicle allowance from $150 a month for the mayor and council to $550 a month for the mayor and $350 a month for councilmembers. That increase will take place the middle of this month, or 30 days after the vote, as regulations allow for the council to increase the allowance without waiting for the election of a new council.
All of the increases are based on a report by an independent organization commissioned by the council in 2012 and composed of five Mesa residents that compared the Mesa rates to other, similar municipalities.
“I thought this was a very reasonable way of coming up with it (salary),” said District 5 Councilman David Luna.
Per the report, the council’s salary prior to the Dec. 9 vote was the mayor’s salary was the fifth largest in Arizona and the council’s the sixth, even though Mesa is the third largest city in Arizona with a population of 450,000 people.
According to the report, the council and mayor have only approved two pay increases since 1967: once in 1986 and once in 1998. District 3 Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh said the council also approved an ordinance that provided a bump in salary whenever city staff received a pay increase, and he said the council voted to decrease its salary by 2 percent when city staff had its pay cut by the same total in 2009.
“My view is the pay should have been looked at more frequently, but it’s one of those political footballs,” Kavanaugh said.
Kavanaugh’s comment was in reference to complaints officials receive when they decide to increase pay, which did occur prior to the vote on Dec. 9. In this case, two speakers, one of whom represented the Red Mountain tea party, spoke out against the increase prior to the vote.
Resident Marcus Ray called the decision to increase the pay “asinine” and criticized the total the council and mayor raised it to.
“You guys are talking about a 90 percent increase in your pay,” he said.
Kavanaugh and Luna both defended the increase, with Luna saying the increased funding could provide residents more incentive to run for public office. The biggest factor for both though was the amount of effort councilmembers and the mayor put into their jobs. They both said their positions are in effect full-time roles given the number of emails, meetings, events and even day-to-day interactions.
“I can’t go to church without talking about the city,” Kavanaugh said.
The third person who spoke prior to the vote, Mesa resident David Lane, concurred with Luna’s assessment on the potential influx of candidates and about the increased duties for councilmembers.
His main point on the latter topic is the city’s continued population growth, which has grown from a population of 382,479 in 1998 to the current estimate of 450,000.
“Mesa is a major city; it’s no longer the sleepy bedroom community that’s east of Phoenix,” he said.
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