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Steven Nobile, Professed Conservative, Wants a 324% Pay Increase for Palm Coast Council

| November 12, 2015

Council member Steven Nobile (his finger raised) wants council salaries to be raised to around $40,000. Bill McGuire, in the foreground, disagrees. (c FlaglerLive)

Council member Steven Nobile (his finger raised) wants council salaries to be raised to around $40,000. Bill McGuire, in the foreground, disagrees. (c FlaglerLive)

When Palm Coast incorporated in 1999, city council members’ salaries were more symbolic than substantial. They were paid $100 a month. These days, that’s just their mileage allowance. They now make $9,600 a year, a 700 percent increase, though inflation since 1999 has increased by 43 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Palm Coast’s population has increased 200 percent.

Still, the council’s two rookie members–Steven Nobile and Heidi Shipley–want a considerable pay increase. Nobile wants the pay to be equivalent to 80 percent of what county commissioners make, because Palm Coast’s population of 80,000 is 80 percent of the county’s. Commissioners this year make $50,916, a figure set by state law. So Nobile is asking for a salary of $40,732 for city council members. That would equate to a 324 percent salary increase.

Shipley is not set on a base salary. She wants a raise, but she’s not specifying the amount. Rather, she’d like the council salaries to be indexed to inflation, so–like Florida’s minimum wage–they increase every year accordingly. But she is asking for a more substantial raise in another way: she wants council members to be provided, or at least offered, participation in the city’s benefits plan, which includes health insurance and a 401-k retirement plan.

The city offers two health plans–for individual employees, for employees and their spouse, their children, their family. The plans are generous and affordable. The so-called “blended” plan provides insurance to individual employees at a cost of $67 a month, or $145 for an employee and a spouse, and $511 for a family plan. The high-deductible plan lowers the employee’s cost to $32 a month, but with a deductible of $1,500. For an employee and a spouse, the cost is $126 a month, with a deductible of $3,000. (See details of the health plans here and here.)

Benefits such as health insurance, while tax-exempt, are considered to be part of an employee’s compensation package.

The Palm Coast City Council discussed pay and benefits at its workshop on Tuesday, and asked City Manager Jim Landon to return later this month with a presentation on potential costs of extending benefits to council members. The discussion was the latest this year on council pay. Some of those discussions were prompted by council members, some by Ralph Lightfoot, the chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee, who has been pressing the council to increase pay as a way of attracting a more diversified membership. There is no evidence that pay levels improves the diversity, let alone the quality, of elected officials.

“I’m not all about the $40,000 paycheck for city government,” Shipley said, but she still would like a percentage raise and benefits. “It’s just an option. I would love to make more money, but I want to do what’s popular for people, too,” Shipley said.

“I just feel like it would open up the ability for us to attract candidates who would both fall more into more diversified categories and would be allowed to participate a lot more in the things we need to do, because it is, it is a full-time job,” Nobile said. “I probably of everyone here I’m going to bet, I put in the least amount of time, and I probably put in 30 hours a week, at least.”

Council member Bill McGuire is not convinced. “I don’t feel strongly about my rate of pay,” he said. “I don’t want to lose money, because I’m living on a fixed income, so I don’t want to have to dip into my social security to finance my activities on behalf of the city, so from that standpoint I would want to be compensated either in kind or—” McGuire trailed off, before saying he’d prefer to have his driving on Palm Coast’s account done in a city vehicle, and his phoning done on a city phone. “As far as what Ms. Shipley is saying for health insurance, I’d like some for my wife but I’m on Medicare and Medicare supplement, so here again, it isn’t hurting me financially to do my job, but I’m cutting it close.”

Council member Jason DeLorenzo did not chime in either way, underscoring another subtle divide on the council: come next year, McGuire will be running for re-election, and DeLorenzo will likely be seeking a seat on the county commission, so neither is keen give their opponents a free gift on the campaign trail, as both could easily be portrayed as self-serving by seeking higher pay. Nobile’s and Shipley’s seats are not up. Mayor Jon Netts is term-limited, and he’s already spoken publicly as favoring a pay increase for future councils, as one of his parting acts. That would provide the 3-2 majority the council needs for a pay increase (which would not take effect until after the next election anyway), granting Netts, Nobile and Shipley their wish while giving McGuire and DeLorenzo the room to vote no, look good on the campaign trail and still not hurt the pay-increase initiative.

Heidi Shipley. (c FlaglerLive)

Heidi Shipley. (c FlaglerLive)

Netts has favored pay increases every time they’ve come up. He was under the impression the council increased its pay only once since 1999. In fact, it increased pay twice–in 2003 and in 2007.

The 2003 increase raised council members’ salaries from $1,200 annually to $6,000, and the mayor’s salary from $1,800 to $7,500 a year. That was accomplished through a 3-2 vote, with then-mayor Jim Canfield, who was among the featured speakers at the Palm Coast City Hall grand opening earlier this month, opposing the increase. “Legally, this council can raise the salary ,” Canfield said at the time. “Morally, I don’t think we should raise the salary.”

Netts disagreed with him at the time, saying: “In less than three years, we’ve become the 54th largest city in the state of Florida. We are dealing with growing pains like we never have before.”

The council again voted itself a raise in 2007, to the current pay levels, with the mayor getting $11,400.

With every paycheck council members also get an additional $100 a month as a mileage allowance, and $50 a month as a “communications” allowance. Council members can submit mileage receipts to support the mileage allowance. If they don’t submit the receipts, they still get the money, but they’re taxed on that $100 just as they would be for income. The city prefers not to provide cell phones. It’s too complicated—it eliminates the need for two phones—it’s too personal, and too tricky when public record laws kick in. That’s why the communications allowance. In essence, then, council members are paid $11,400 a year.

“The reality is, if the cost of living goes up every year and your salary remains static, you are losing money,” Netts said. “I’d be curious, from the last time the council adjusted its salary to today, what is the cumulative cost of living, increase or decrease, just curious—whether we gained purchasing power or lost it.”

It has lost, but not by much. Taking council members’ base pay of $9,600, if they were to have been granted the annual increase to account for inflation, they’d be making $11,017 today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator. Conversely, their current salary has the same purchasing power as $8,365 would have had in 2007. So they have lost some ground, but no more ground than have most rank-and-file employees, especially in Palm Coast and Flagler County government agencies, where raises have been scant.

“I feel like I’m volunteering,” Nobile said of his rate of pay (a characterization Shipley did not share: she said she still feels like she’s “serving,” rather than volunteering.)

“If you ran for this office and you said you were going to be fiscally conservative and do your best to keep taxes low, as I did,” McGuire said during the discussion, “then to participate in any type of compensation over and above what I’m already getting that would come out of the ad valorem taxes, would be to say, well, I was just kidding, you know.”

Audio: the full 21-minute segment of the discussion on pay can be heard here.

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42 Responses for “Steven Nobile, Professed Conservative, Wants a 324% Pay Increase for Palm Coast Council”

  1. lenamarshall says:

    If these two ran just for the money then they are sadly mistaken, working for city or county government comes with a lot of perks but a high salary Is not one of them.

    Don’t like it quit.

  2. carol says:

    Mr. Nobile, if you need the $40,000 a year income, maybe you should resign to the city council and get a real paying job. I’m sure there are many citizens that would do your role at the council for free.

  3. Samuel L. Bronkowitz says:

    Hahahahaha

  4. Woody says:

    Come on Steven I was with you until now.Didn’t you know what the job paid before you ran?You know what your boss would say in the private sector.The boss would throw you out on your ASS!

  5. David S says:

    Really?

  6. Algernon says:

    The lack of balance is not that the county commissioners are paid too much or that the city council members are paid too little, but that both sets of officeholders put in large amounts of time, and that they should be fairly compensated for it, taking the element of public service into the equation.

    The state of Florida supports the formula by which county commissioners are paid.

    Is compensation for city council members around the state guided by any kind of guideline or formula?

  7. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    I would support a salary increase. The way it’s currently setup, only candidates that are retired, independently wealthy, or have an extremely flexible schedule can consider running. That leaves you a council with a mean age pushing 60+?

  8. YankeeExPat says:

    Steven Nobile and The Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly of Flagler County onto another boondoggle to besmirch the man, (“The Gipper”) they espouse to emulate.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5I6Tgu1-LHY

  9. tulip says:

    I think they should get a raise but NOT 324 percent!!!!! Geesh that’s way to high. Also if the pay is too high, that encourages people to run because they could live on over 40,000 a year plus benefits and not because they really care about governing the city and will run for the money just like they do in the county commissioner races. The county commissioners earn way to much, but that is set by the state. They earn close to what Volusia county commissioners earn, which is a larger county than we are.

    I would think getting a raise of 15,000 a year plus, mileage and phone allowance is a fair option and the mayor getting $ 20-25,000 a year, plus mileage and phone expense.

    I think all the working residents who work far more hours than the city council does, and who do NOT get huge raises should feel insulted.

  10. Lin says:

    Whatever happened to public service?
    So Steven nobile wants a full time salary for a part time job, the nerve. Did he not know what the salary was when he ran for office? Another fiscal conservative that isn’t. And Heidi also didn’t know what the salary was? I’m sorry I voted for them. And Heidi wants her pay indexed to inflation and wants to do what’s popular? Guess what, seniors were just told there is no inflation and were denied social security increases. Salaries here are low. Gave up on Netts a long time ago. Surprised a bit by McGuire’s logic, not by DeLorenzo’s silence.

    This is exactly why the charter needs to be reviewed. Good catch Flaglerlive — They can vote themselves raises and those running for office can keep their hands clean of controversary. The city council is run without accountability to their constituents. You guys have had more raises than your city populace.

    It didn’t take long.

  11. bruce geiger says:

    The elected people are not employees, they are lawmakers and policy makers. They should not consider themselves as working for the public. They are entitled to some compensation, certainly enough to pay the dry cleaning bill and a few tanks of gas. It is a temporary position, not a career. There are too many people on the government payrolls who work a short time (relatively) and get paid for a lifetime. A good example is twenty and out. Some people choose a political career with the attitude of a bank robber, “that’s where the money is” Term limits are a good thing.

  12. joseph pulitzer says:

    Mr. Nobile has an option. He could always resign!

  13. Robbie says:

    The argument for a raise is misguided. Higher pay does not equate to excellence in performance. We don’t have to look far for an example. The town manager is grossly overpaid and what has he done that would be described as outstanding? Wall Street bankers were and are highly paid. And they brought the US’ and the world’s economy to its knees a few years ago. So much for high pay equates to high performance. This isn’t professional sports.

    How is diversity defined? If it is referring to the median age of the town councilors pay has little to do with exclusion of younger candidates. There is little diversity on the town council because that is the way “they” want it. They are the keep things as they are crowd. Why else would meetings be scheduled during the day? If a working class person were to be elected to the town council they could not attend meetings. Those who sold the citizens on the idea of self rule wanted only people like themselves on the town council.

    Last, who is going to pay for the increased cost of government? Other than retail establishments there are little to no businesses in this city, resulting in a relatively small tax base. So the burden of paying for larger government will be borne by the citizens, the taxpayers.

  14. m&m says:

    You get paid what you’re worth. Even that might too much.

  15. blondee says:

    324 percent increase? I got 1.3 percent this year.

  16. Nancy N. says:

    Conservative? Uh Mr. Nobile, I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

  17. Knightwatch says:

    O.k., at the risk of being on the same side of ANY issue with Councilman Nobile, I think we need to look at mayoral/council expenses and compensation to ensure the job fairly compensates officeholders. At the very least, all costs incurred while conducting official duties should be covered, and the annual salary should at least equal that of comparable city councils. I’m in favor of issuing cellphones, laptops and other necessary tools of office, and even the optional use of a city car, if available, when travelling out of the city on official council business.

  18. Ron G says:

    I voted for Nobile because I thought he was different. Time for him to go.

  19. Vincent A. Liguori says:

    One of the major principles relative to the incorporation effort, was that the city council be composed of civic minded citizens who had the capacity and ability to perform the requirements of the position. City council salaries were never intended to provide a full-time compensation package. Furthermore, salary comparisons for the Palm Coast city council should be made against sister cities: Deltona-$8900,Ormond Beach-$11,000 and Port Orange-$13,600.. The proposed salary figure of $35,641 is totally out of line and should be rejected. In my opinion, when city employees receive a cost of living increase, council members should also receive it. Does the proposed salary increase to a full-time position negate the need for a city manager? What’s next?

  20. Bill says:

    Hmm OK lets get rid of the overpaid city manager split SOME of his pay and ALL his responsibility’s among the council. Do they deserve more ??? maybe a little maybe . We don’t need to pay them or ANY elected officials a lot of money such positions should not be looked at as life long positions. They should be taken by those who look to do the work of the people and move back to privet life in a few years NOT those who want a life long job. Mr Nobile maybe you should look at returning to privet life over running again.

  21. Dave says:

    Is anyone on the council doing anything as of yet to actually deserve any increase ? NO. Give them what normal employees get, 0-3% . http://www.mercer.com/newsroom/pay-raises-for-us-employees-continue-to-grow-steadily-new-mercer-survey-finds.html

  22. CHOPSHOP says:

    Stevey nobile was the first to open his big mouth about the poor people need their house fixed up, and they cant pay their water bill or their taxes .Now he wants to steel their tax money with a 324% raise. You get what you vote for. He is nothen but a total fraud. Wake up tax payers, he only ran for office for the money to support his gun store.

  23. Jim jimWjamjAmes weames whim w says:

    Clock their hours and pay them $15.00 an hour. That would be a pretty decent salary for any person that works in Flagler county. This isn’t New York or New Jersey or any other town you came from. If you want the job take the salary. You signed up for the job not me. Look at what our troops make. Shut up and work or go somewhere else.

  24. Jack Howell says:

    Sorry, don’t see happening in the near future. You got a city hall to pay for. Remember, that is the building that the voters did not want!

  25. deb says:

    does it really matter what we have to say about this? history has shown us that the city council does what they want, the voters don’t matter. I’m sure they knew what the job entailed before they ran for it. kind of like marrying someone you don’t like, but it’s okay because “you’ll change them”.

  26. groot says:

    Agree 100%! Pay them a reasonable amount and provide benefits. What, do expect these people to do this practically for free? You get what you pay for. As it is, any right thinking qualified person will do this once and done if at all. Seriously, would you do this for $9600? Get dressed up for those workshops and meetings, answer emails and phone calls from residents, go to ceremonies and events, take crap from cranky residents…No, I don’t think very many of you would. It’s a thankless job. I would like to thank Mr Nobie, Ms Shipley and the other city council members for taking on a thankless job and doing an excellent job against all odds. Good work! Now, pay them!

  27. Oldseadog says:

    WOW

    The Council members want a raise for their performance! PERHAPS if they were to allow a simple REVIEW of the Charter of the City (which is long overdue), and maybe even change to a different type of control as to who runs the City, it would be worth considering, but we all know how terrified the majority of present Council members are of having such a review.
    Currently the non-elected City Manager rules and the Council rubber stamps his decisions—-Am I missing the point as to why the Council wants higher pay for that? Hmmmmmmmmmn

  28. Barry Hartmann says:

    I knew this is where Steve was headed.! Really? I guess all that talk during the election about serving and community and giving back meant you wanted to be paid! 324% WOW !!!

  29. Anonymous says:

    I guess he feels that some citizens of the USA are more deserving than others of consideration and “a fair break.” Of course, people who work for minimum wage are not deserving of such consideration for the hard work THEY do for rich corporations, according to the philosophy that Nobile espouses–only folks like HIM do. “Double Standard” is a kind way to describe such hypocrisy.

  30. NortonSmitty says:

    Well of course! Did you really expect anything less from the Do as I Say and Not as I Do Wing of the Local Official Ayn Rand Conservative Anti-Big-Free-Spending Evil Big-Assed Government Hating Unless I need to put Some Cash in My Own Bona-Fide Conservative Pocket Ronald Reagan Hypocrite Republican Fan Club? I mean c’mon! He hasn’t been in office long enough to steer any serious graft his way yet. Cut a poor wannabe Boss Hogg a little slack until he gets a little momentum going here folks, please!

  31. b&b says:

    Hey Noble, you knew what the pay was when ran for the job. If you don’t like it QUIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  32. Brad W says:

    Just a couple of points about this very “conservative” idea of Mr. Nobile’s. In fact when you look at this and the charter thing, it seems that Mr. Nobile apparently defines “conservative” as the exact opposite of what the conservative groups in the area that backed him do. Mr. Nobile is apparently for expanding government (more council members) and increasing spending.

    1. The County receives 38% of our property tax revenue whereas the City receives just about 19%. So relating an increase in compensation to population contribution is ridiculous.

    2. IF the City were to take an additional $100,000 in compensation and hand that to anyone, do you think it should be to Council Members or Staff? I would think a Council Member would be speaking up for staff increases since they are the ones who do the actual work.

    3. Health Insurance costs far more than just the employee contribution. There is the employer contribution to that premium.

    4. It’s not about “what’s popular for people” but rather WHAT IS BEST FOR THE PEOPLE.

    5. The City should be on a cloud PBX phone system and assign numbers to the Council Members and have office space for them to use if they choose to..

    The Council Member positions were not meant to be full-time careers. And for good reason. A big part of the reason for minimizing the power of the Council is to keep the politics to a minimum. This again is simply a political ploy. Why? It’s about power and it’s coming from two politicians and a political leader. Duh.

    I agree that it’s difficult to attract new people to want to run and SERVE in those positions. Perhaps that is because no one has ever put in any effort into communicating what they actually do. Steven Nobile and Heidi Shipley obviously misinterpreted what their roles actually would be. Steven Nobile always gave the impression he thought it would be like DC political theater and many of knew he was going to be in for a rude awakening. Maybe because ALL meetings and workshops should be held in the evenings so working individuals can run. The City needs to put staff more in the forefront as the go-to people since they are the ones actually doing the work and serving residents.

    The one thing we should be very careful of and cautious of is politicizing our local government because that quickly becomes about serving special interest groups and individuals and is how real corruption happens. None of which is about WHAT IS BEST FOR THE PEOPLE. The County is a great example of a politicized body and government that is extremely dysfunctional because of the politics and individuals always looking to protect a paycheck and serving those who help them get elected. And quite honestly, I think there are far more important things these two could be focused on other than selfish non-issues. Perhaps Mr. Nobile should run for County Commission if he wants a raise.

    If it walks like a political ploy and quacks like a political ploy, it’s a . . . .

  33. tulip says:

    Some residents complain that city council alternates between a daytime and a night time meeting, and that the residents that work during the day can’t attend the daytime ones. There are also people who work at night and can’t attend those pm meetings.

    However, it seems that hardly anybody at all attends these meetings whether it be night or day unless there is some big issue on the agenda. I’m willing to bet these people don’t watch it on tv either. So the complaint about people being unable to attend doesn’t wash. They choose not to attend, learn and participate, I too am guilty of that, but I do watch on tv when I think of it and if the agenda is interesting. I used to watch the county commissioner meetings, but no longer. Can’t stand the BS

    I do agree though, that if a person doesn’t have flexible work hours, it’s just about impossible to be a councilperson.

  34. Robbie says:

    @Jack Howell.
    This is exactly why I see it happening.
    The voters did not want a new city hall. We now have a new city hall.
    If past performance is an indicator of future behavior then not only will they get a raise they will also get benefits.

    Politicians know how to feed at the through, and some get promotions by being voted on to the Flagler County Commission. And to borrow a phrase from Trump’s most recent rant. How stupid are the people of Flagler / Palm Coast to believe this crap?

  35. Rich Mikola says:

    It’s always about the MONEY!!!

  36. Will says:

    Tulip is right. The Council is lucky to get 20 people in the audience day or night. And a quarter of those have been attending for the last 15 years. Mr. Nobile, Ms. Shipley, and all those who think that more qualified and or younger people will run for the Council if the salaries were raised to approach County Commission salaries need only to look at the Commissioners past and present and will realize that their arguments are nonsense.

  37. Billy says:

    I support a pay raise for Steve since he lobbied to get rid of the Red light Cameras. I hope he’ll lobby to reduce everyones H2O bill; Electricity is starting to become cheaper than the H2O!

  38. Mary says:

    Employees have not gotten raises in several years now so HELL NO!Let them get out and do some real work for peanuts.

  39. Howard Duley says:

    Politicians by nature are filthy pieces of crap. If a politician was in a car crash and the vehicle was on fire I would drive quickly to a gas station to purchase more gas to pour on the fire.

  40. Linda says:

    Really?? Did Steve not know what the salary was BEFORE he ran? This is City Council position not a full time job. It’s all about money isn’t it. Why can’t we just get politician’s that want to serve the people and not their wallets.

  41. V Chalkley says:

    Yep; they just got there without many qualifications; and already we see the greed need appearing. They should not have run for the offices. Can you say GREED??? Be sure not to vote for these two, as it’s pretty clear what they’re in it for. They should only be compensated like mentioned above, with similar rates as other neighboring counties/cities. Some people get on that POWER trip and want to be all that. The bigger they think they are; the harder they will fall. Vote them out next election. Do us a favor & QUIT !!

  42. Agnese Spicer says:

    I certainly don’t think this town needs Mr. Nobile or his outrageous pay demands.

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