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By Brian Ackley
City of Lake Wales 

Commissioners in 3-2 Vote Approve Salary Raises for Themselves

 

Last updated 9/30/2020 at 10:10am

LaVaughn Williamson Williamsonphotos.com

Lake Wales City Commission

City commissioners will be getting a bump in pay next year after a salary increase was approved at the group's meeting Sept. 22.

It is the first raise in commission salaries since the last one was approved in the fall of 2013. Currently commissioners are paid $4,917 a year, while the mayor's post pays $7,310.

The new annual salary will be $6,323 for commissioners and $9,484 for the mayor.

The raise brings salaries in line with what other local cities of similar size pay their elected officials. For example, Auburndale pays commissioners $5,904 and $6,937 to the mayor. Bartow commissioners and the mayor are both $7,520.

An existing city ordinance approved in the fall of 2014 calls for the mayor's salary to be 50 percent higher than other commissioners because of the additional public duties and responsibilities the position entails.

In July, commissioners initially rejected the idea of a pay raise. But projected revenues for the 2020-21 fiscal year budget, which starts, were better than originally anticipated, so Commissioner Robin Gibson brought the idea back to the group during an agenda workshop on Sept. 16.

"I didn't want to bring it up until we knew what our budget situation was. It turns out our budget situation is much better than we feared so this seems to be something we can handle without much difficulty," Robin Gibson said.

The commission has adopted a 2020-21 spending plan that actually lowers the millage rate to $6.9747, or about $6.97 per $1,000 of taxable property value.

Starting this summer, commissioners have added two meetings a month – agenda review workshops held six days prior to each regularly scheduled commission meeting – and are also now meeting monthly as the CRA board. In years past, the CRA board usually convened only when needed to approve any action items.

"I personally am kind of ambivalent about it, but we're certainly doing a lot more work with the workshops, and I know at least three of my fellow commissioners have taken the time to attend conferences and travel which I had time to do and I'm grateful to them," Robin Gibson added. "They're assuming a little higher burden and I want to be sensitive to that."

Interim City Manager James Slaton said the new salary figure was arrived at as a percentage of the city's overall budget to be roughly the same as that percentage in nearby cities.

The ordinance will go into effect after the next city election on April 6, per the city charter. Mayor Eugene Fultz, and commissioners Robin Gibson and Al Goldstein voted in favor of the measure, while commissioners Curtis Gibson and Terrye Howell cast no votes.

 

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