TC Palm by Gil Smart
October 24, 2017
On the one hand, it’s really not that much money.
Last month Stuart City Commissioners gave themselves a hefty raise. But “hefty” is a relative term. Previously, the five commissioners each were paid $11,650 annually. Now they’ll be paid $18,000, a 55 percent increase.
Well, sure. But, context: The additional pay for all commissioners will total $31,750.
That’s 0.001 percent of the city’s $27.7 million 2018 budget.
This won’t exactly break the bank.
On the other hand, let’s talk about how commissioners went about giving themselves the money.
For months, as city officials developed their annual budget, no one publicly advocated raising commissioners’ pay. But on Sept. 25, at the first of two hearings finalizing the 2017-18 budget and tax rate, Vice Mayor Kelli Glass Leighton floated the idea.
Four days later, at the second and final budget hearing, the commission voted 4-1 in favor.
Tom Campenni was the only commissioner to vote “no” — ironic, because in 2016 he’d proposed the very same salary hike, though it wouldn’t have kicked in for two years. This time, Campenni complained citizens didn’t have an opportunity to weigh in; he also said each commissioner should have stood for election before getting the raise.
That’s how it works in Port St. Lucie, where Mayor Greg Oravec told TCPalm’s Lisa Broadt city law requires any pay raise only go into effect after the next council election, and only if the council voted for the raise at least six months in advance.
That’s the transparent way of doing things.
Then there’s the Stuart way.
So OK, maybe that’s a little unfair, but look: The way the commission did this was destined — guaranteed — to make people furious, once they found out about it.