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Council nixes charter pay raise proposal

By Staff | Jun 1, 2011

City council nixed the idea of putting a pay raise for themselves before voters this November, shooting down the proposed charter amendment with a 7 – 1 vote on Wednesday.
Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz argued that putting the item on the ballot would give the voters a chance to help decide the city’s future.
Not putting it before voters was irresponsible, he said.
“We’re giving the people we work for the opportunity to tell us where they want their city to go,” Chulakes-Leetz said.
As it stands now, average compensation for council members is $15,651.90 a year, based on 17 cents per registered voter; the mayor makes $18,414 a year, based on 20 cents per registered voter.
One proposal tendered by the Charter Review Commission would have increased council pay by roughly $10,000 per member by changing the compensation method to per resident. Another proposal would have allowed council to set its own pay via ordinance.
Neither proposal would have taken effect until 2013 but both proposals were shot down by council.
It was a matter of timing, said Councilmember Bill Deile, who supported the idea of increased pay but not at this time. Deile said the item could be brought back some time in the future.
Though he was casting no aspersions to any one sitting council member, Derrick Donnell said “you get what you pay for”, and that salary it what draws talent.
He said the current compensation is embarrassing, to some degree, as Cape Coral is the fourth largest city in the state.
Mayor John Sullivan said he supports a pay raise, but as proposed, it was still not enough to attract younger candidates who are supporting a family.
“I think there’s people up here and people out there who want to see younger people, people raising families (run for office). I don’t think we’ll get it with what’s proposed here,” he said.
With the city’s rank and file taking pay cuts, and the police and fire unions still at the negotiating table, Councilmember Kevin McGrail said it was the worst possible time to put this on the ballot for voters.
Chulakes-Leetz said the city could be facing a much darker future if economics haven’t improved by 2013, when the pay raise would have taken effect.
“I understand we’ve asked some employees to take pay cuts, but if we can’t start returning some of those salaries in 2013, our problems are much greater,” he said.
Council continued to discuss into the evening amendments to the city charter proffered by the Charter Review Commission, an appointed advisory body.
Items approved by council for referendum will be introduced during the board’s June 13 workshop and the public hearing is set for June 20, the last meeting before council takes its summer hiatus, according to City Clerk Rebecca Van Deutekom.