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Palm Coast Council Members Cautiously Discuss Their Low Salaries, But No Raise Yet

| May 26, 2015

palm coast salaries council members

The Palm Coast City Council collectively makes less than the Bunnell City Commission and far less than the county commission. Some residents are wondering whether it’s time for a raise. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast’s mayor makes $600 less than Bunnell’s mayor. Palm Coast council members earn the same as Bunnell commission members: $9,600 a year, even though Palm Coast has 30 times the population of Bunnell. County commissioners make $50,533 a year. City council members aren’t the only ones who wince at the disparity.

“I don’t know that the commission has that much more work to do than the council of Palm Coast,” says Ralph Lightfoot, who had several discussions with residents about salaries and emailed council member Steven Nobile, suggesting that a raise may be in order.

“This is one of the reasons I recommended a charter review,” Nobile said, “so that a committee outside of the council could say, yes, we should increase based on the input we’re getting from the residents, and then let them figure out, put together what should it be.”

Nobile cautioned: “And just to put the media at rest. This isn’t a conspiracy for me to take over the government.” He was referring to the minor storm he triggered earlier this month when he brought up the notion of a charter review, making his colleagues wonder where the proposal was coming from and what its motives were. Nobile is an outspoken member of the Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies, the local radical group, but in this case the proposal couldn’t have come from a more diametrically opposed camp: Lightfoot chairs the Flagler County Democratic Party Executive Committee, and the salary discussions first brewed, he said in a brief interview this afternoon, with fellow-Palm Coast residents at Starbucks.

All the same, council members were very cautious today as they discussed the idea of a salary change—not because Nobile was bringing it forth, but because the salaries of council members and their city manager (who earns a base salary of $169,000 a year, not including perks and benefits) can be a touchy issue.

“It’s something city council at any time can consider if they consider it’s beneficial, worthwhile,” Mayor Jon Netts said. But, he said, “just climbing out of the recession, I don’t think this is the time.”

Nor does Nobile. “Personally I feel totally uncomfortable in OK’ing a salary increase and or coming up with a number,” he said, though he sympathizes with the motive behind the idea: that low salaries may discourage younger people from running for city seats. Lightfoot says as the city grows and becomes more complex, it needs to be able to rely on the caliber of council members that draws on a broader number of people.

Jason DeLorenzo, the council’s youngest member, is a case in point: he was the most interested among the council’s four members today (Heidi Shipley was absent, on a family matter) to explore the notion by perhaps having the administration prepare a analysis of neighboring councils and commissions’ salaries. He has a full-time job (as the government affairs director of the Flagler County Home Builders Association), he has a young family, and the council salary isn’t an enticement for a long career on the council.

But even he had his doubts about the link between higher salaries and better candidates.

“Look at the tremendous age diversity that’s created,” Netts said of the county commission’s membership. “I’m saying that with tongue firmly in cheek. I’m not sure the raising of salaries is going to engender a whole new crop of candidates. On the other hand, up until very recently, the mayor of Bunnell was making more than the mayor of Palm Coast.”

“The city council is a lot different than the county commission,” Nobile said.

“We work more than them,” DeLorenzo said, but with a smile, provoking howls—not necessarily disapproving howls–from his colleagues, none of whom has served on the commission.

It wasn’t the only slap at neighboring governments. “I know of government agencies within radius of where we are where the members do go out of their way to assault one another verbally in a meeting, and consequently they’re second-class municipalities. We’re not,” council member Bill McGuire said. He was referring to his own conduct on the council, to reassure Nobile that even though he’d called him “agitated” a couple of meetings before, he hadn’t meant it as a slight. Nor had Nobile taken it as one. The two made nice today.

On council salaries, McGuire was non-committal. “You can run the gamut from zero to infinity,” he said of compensation set-ups, with volunteer boards all the way to richly compensated ones.

If the notion of a salary increase for Palm Coast council members was looking for a champion today, it didn’t find one. At least not on the council. But Lightfoot gave the council an opening it may not have expected: if the idea is initiated from outside the council, and its proponents support it vocally before council members, the council could then find itself in a position to grant itself a raise—and call it the people’s will.

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11 Responses for “Palm Coast Council Members Cautiously Discuss Their Low Salaries, But No Raise Yet”

  1. Wrong wrong wrong.

    Put a referendum on the ballot and see what support you get for taxing the residents more for the part time job of the city council. You shouldn’t be making a career out of politics. That’s one of the biggest problems in this country.

    To hear the city council chit chatting about padding their own pockets and joking about who does more work is disgusting.

  2. tulip says:

    County Commissioners are overpaid (almost $1000 a week) and City Council members are underpaid ($184 a week)

    I think the council members should make more than they do, but not so much money that people will run for council seats just because of the salary, as some people have done for various county elected offices.

  3. Rob says:

    No and he** no.
    That premise that higher pay results in better qualified candidates was disproved on Wall Street when those astronomically paid bankers brought the US and World economy to its knees. Here in Palm Coast the town manager’s total compensation is over the top, has he produced super star type results for this city? One councilor wants to survey nearby salaries of other jurisdictions. Sure by all means. Find me another city with: chronically the highest unemployment rates in the state and, less than $23,000 median incomes, with a large majority of school children eligible for subsidized lunches. Then we can speak about parity. Don’t give me that we pay what others of similar size pay garbage. Pay based on demographics. This city is not prosperous despite the high tone persona that those who govern this city and some who live here want the uninformed to believe. And those entering public service should not look to build a mail box and stay around for decades.

    Let’s review the charter and maybe get an elected working mayor, paid a decent salary, who is answerable to the people, the voters. And while we are at it evaluate why is it necessary to have a county and city government. City residents are paying for two governments, marginal ones at best.

  4. a tiny manatee says:

    I caution you to not raise the council wage to something livable. The position itself is NOT a full time one, I know this from experience. If you make it a living wage, you will make the position even more politicized than it is already. Any vote to raise the wage should only apply to the next generation of councilmen.

  5. Simple Solution says:

    PC citizens were better off when the area was just part of Flagler County prior to December 31, 1999. Look at all the increased cost and hassle to live here since PC became a City (Increased H20 bills, City Tax, Red Light Cameras, Over Development, etc..), and ask yourself is PC better or worse since it became a City. Maybe, a vote to discontinue the City is the Simple Solution.

  6. Brad W says:

    Interestingly enough Steven Nobile is the one who recently called his Charter Review circus an “unnecessary distraction” from the more important issue of growing our economy. Now he is addressing “growing our economy” by paying himself and the Council members more?

    Is Steven Nobile our new Kimberle Weeks?

  7. markingthedays says:

    If you want Palm Coast to continue to be governed by old white folks who have nothing better to do with their time, continue to pay them this pittance which barely qualifies as an expense stipend.

  8. DwFerg says:

    I would be open to a Councilmember being treated to all the same fringe benefits as a city employee and not in favor of an automatic stipend increase in annual “salary”. Public service should be as the word implies, not a source of personal entitlement . However, the annual stipend outlined in the charter is now 15 years “old”. The inflation adjusted monthly amount is approximately Half the value stated by charter, thus in constant dollars. with no adjustment for inflation outlined, the meaning of service really hits the mark ! Agree the City and County have duplicative staff and overlapping services. Politics will certainly interfere with any productive discussion of consolidated forms of government. It could be done, but not if left entirely to the “entitled ” incumbent public servants.!!!

  9. Groot says:

    There is no way that I would do that city council job for $9600 a year which works out to about $5 an hour. They’re literally on 24/7 and represent the city at all times. Just the duty of sitting in those meetings in a suit in Florida is daunting in and of itself and then there is all the prep for the meetings, meeting with constituents, public appearances, stress and time away from family. I’m not certain what a fair wage would be for the job. I would suggest doing a comparative analysis with like size cities in the state. If the city councilmen were paid as professionals, the job would attract a wider variety of ages and backgrounds. As it is, who can do this unless they have another income (retired) or a job that has very flexible schedule. $9600 a year to do that? Heck no.

  10. John H. Yankovich says:

    Why pay these people more when they ignore the people and their referendums. The new city hall 8 miles from original town and the red light cameras ( not vote on) illegal in most other areas. Langdon is overrated and over paid especially when the renewal of red light cameras was done unilaterally by him. He was also given $5000 bonus when Palm Coast had over 15% unemployment. The Council members are performing a civic duty. NO ONE HELD GUN TO THEIR HEAD TO TAKE THE JOB. They all have the option to resign!!!
    When we came to Palm Coast in 1999 the overall mill rate for property tax was around 2.51 and now it is at almost at 7 mills. With Property values on the rise a reduction in the mill rate is needed!!! One final note, when Langdon was hired he signed on for $125,000 plus he is now at almost $170,000. A $45,000 increase over a 5 to 7 years tenure. A 26.4% increase. How many Palm Coast residents who are wage earners or retirees achieved that during the Great ” Recession “. In closing, why is it the Government is the only aspect of the economy that doesn’t have to retrench.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Lets make a reasonable salary. We cant expect quality people to take on this very important position and put in the time. Otherwise, we will continue to have a limited pool trying to do the job. Lets give them a little more…at least to cover the costs. Maybe, we can get choices from a bigger pool.

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