Commissioners in Split Vote Reject Raises for Themselves
Last updated 7/30/2020 at 7:13am
Although it would only cost about an extra $8,300 for the year, the Lake Wales City Commission in a split vote decided not to approve a potential 30 percent salary hike for themselves that would have taken effect next May.
Mayor Eugene Fultz and Commissioner Al Goldstein advocated for the raises, citing the increased number of meetings and out-of-pocket expenses, but Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson and Commissioners Terrye Howell and Curtis Gibson voted against the raises, citing bad timing with the anticipated budget cuts which could mean lost positions and no raises for employees.
“It’s certainly deserved but to do it now it just doesn’t look right,” said Deputy Mayor Gibson. “I personally think the timing is bad. People are losing jobs, they can’t make medical bills and everything else.”
Lake Wales commissioners at $4,817 and the mayor at $7,226 are among the lowest paid elected city officials in Polk County. Of similar sized cities only Auburndale pays its mayor less - $6,937, while paying its commissioners $5,934 – about $1,100 more than Lake Wales.
Interim City Manager James Slaton brought forward comparative salaries with other cities and a formula based upon the size of their annual budgets. The proposal would have raised Lake Wales commissioner salaries to $6,323 and the mayor’s salary to $9,485 - 50 percent higher than the commissioners as set by city ordinance.
Goldstein said since he assumed office in May 2019 the number of commission meetings has more than doubled. Commissioners are now holding agenda workshops the week before each commission meeting, and often have separate meetings as the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency.
Commissioners discussed possible raises a year ago, when finances were better, but City Manager Ken Fields missed the deadline to have it considered to put it into effect during 2020.
Commissioners have the power to raise their salaries, but any action must be at least six months prior to the city election, so the window for the coming year closes this October. Any raises take effect in May after the April election.
Current salaries for other Polk officials are $11,580 for commissioners and $13,897 for the mayor of Haines City, $12,481 for commissioners and $15,481 for the mayor of Winter Haven, $7,521 for commissioners and the mayor in Bartow and $29,633 for commissioners and $44,600 for the mayor of Lakeland.