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Palm Coast Council Members Favor Giving Themselves Automatic Raises Tied to Inflation

| January 26, 2016

steven nobile heidi shipley raises palm coast city council

A raise was not part of their campaign platform. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast City Council members will very likely be voting for an increase in council members’ salaries or other forms of compensation at a meeting in February.

They will be choosing between four options: raising their base annual pay (currently $11,400 for the mayor, $9,600 for council members), tying their pay to periodic raises indexed to inflation or the city’s population or to city employees’ pay, increasing their compensation for mileage and communication devices (they each get an extra $2,100 a year for that), or adding health benefits.

The council discussed the matter Tuesday morning without formally choosing one option over another, though the increase in base pay, tied to subsequent increases based on inflation, had support from four council members: Heidi Shipley, Steven Nobile, Bill McGuire and Jason DeLorenzo. Mayor Jon Netts is not as eager for a raise, and McGuire said he wasn’t wedded to the idea one way or the other. Netts is leaving office (he is term-limited) and McGuire never took office looking to make money.

Even if the council approves a raise in any form, it would not apply until the next council is seated. That council may look significantly different than this one, with the certainty of a new mayor and at least one new council member, as DeLorenzo has filed to run for a county commission seat (where the pay is just over $50,000 a year). Bill McGuire’s seat is also up. He has not declared for re-election, though today he hinted at it when he said, “I’m in it for the long haul.” (Nevertheless, McGuire has told some friends that he would likely not be running.)

The council has been discussing a possible raise since May when Nobile and Shipley, the panel’s rookies, brought up the issue, saying either that the pay is too low or too discouraging to candidates who may want to serve but are disinclined by the lower pay. Other than Ralph Lightfoot, the chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee, who has publicly asked for better pay for council members, they have yet to cite a single such example, especially as they exclude themselves from the claim.

The city’s founders 16 years ago set council members’ annual salaries at $1,200, and the mayor’s at $1,800. It has increased 700 percent since for council members, and 533 percent for the mayor. Council salary increases have far exceeded both inflation and population increases. The salaries were raised in 2003 and again in 2007, both times with Netts voting in favor of the increases. (Inflation has increased 43 percent and the city’s population 200 percent since Palm Coast’s founding.)

“The other side of the coin, my friends,” the mayor said, “is there are people that put 30 and 40 hours a week for Habitat for Humanity and get nothing.”

In November, Nobile proposed a 324 percent salary increase, justifying it as indexing Palm Coast council members’ salaries to 80 percent of county commissioners’ salaries, since Palm Coast has 80 percent of the county’s population. County commissioners make $51,000 a year. That would have netted a council salary of $40,700. Nobile since retreated from that proposal, and said again today that he was no longer favoring it.

Shipley was uncomfortable with asking for a raise, but found herself both proposing just such a raise while also asking to have the burden of asking for salary increases lifted from council members’ shoulders. Indexing the annual salary to inflation or to whatever pay increases city employees receive would do just that.

“It is something that other it’s kind of an uncomfortable thing to do that, so I think if we changed it so that it takes it out of our hands, and we just get whatever increase the city gets, we just get that same increase, that would be a better way of doing it,”  Shipley said. “I feel like the next group that are coming in here, I think that we owe it to them to speak up and say we need a little bit more, we deserve a little bit more, we should be getting what other cities our size are getting, and I think anyone that actually has been running is at a point—we did bring something to the table, and we deserve—not that we deserve it from the city, but we earned at least  twenty-something thousand dollars a year, we bring that much to the table for the citizens.”

“I agree with you,” McGuire said, “but keep in mind that a lot of us who came from other places in Florida, where I came from, the city aldermen don’t get any money, the school board don’t get any money. You run for office but you serve without compensation.” Jim Guines, who formerly served on the Flagler County School Board for 11 years—a position whose salary of roughly $30,000 a year is also set by state law—often bemoaned the fact that some of his colleagues ran only for the money. He wanted the salaries abolished.

Nobile said people who serve should be compensated, especially considering the time commitment. “I hate for people to not try to get into the race because they can’t put the time in, and I definitely don’t want them getting in if they can’t put the time in, and they just win an election and show up on Tuesdays,”  Nobile said. “I signed on for what it was with no intention of getting more,” he said, citing constituents’ pressure for better salaries.

McGuire said a public servant’s pay should not be the motivation for service. “I know that there are people within 50 miles of here that ran for office for one reason only,” he said, without citing names. “They needed the money, and their performance in my opinion reflects that more so than a desire to serve and help the community.”

“There is some experience of that here actually in Flagler,” DeLorenzo said before proceeding, by way of a cleverly repeated pun, to allude to Kimberle Weeks, the former supervisor of elections who resigned last year. He described her as “someone who stood on a street corner who didn’t have a job and waved a sign all day, every day, for weeks and weeks and weeks, and got that job.”

That didn’t stop DeLorenzo for pushing for a pay increase with retroactive benefits. He favors going back to 2007, the last year the salary was raised, applying the inflation rate to the salary since as a way to increase today’s pay, then have “annual adjustments” (politicians never say raise when it has to do with their own pay). Then he added that service “is for the love of the community, it’s not for the money, that’s for sure.”

Applying the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculation, that means council members would see their base annual pay increase to $10,974 a year, a $1,374 increase, or 14 percent.

Netts said his 4,000 a year in mileage has never been properly compensated even with the monthly $100 auto allowance. “The other side of the coin, my friends,” the mayor said, “is there are people that put 30 and 40 hours a week for Habitat for Humanity and get nothing. There are people that pout 20 and 30 hours every week at the Humane Society and get nothing. There are people throughout this county who contribute significant time and fund their efforts in a charitable fashion and get nothing in return other than a sense of satisfaction.”

Netts wondered how candidates running for city council would weigh in on the issue–what their expectations of a salary would be.

“They won’t say that,” Shipley said.

Not so. Quickly queried in light of today’s discussion, two mayoral candidates contacted–Milissa Holland and John Brady–readily addressed the issue. Brady opposes a raise, at least “with their duties as the duties are now,” while Holland echoed McGuire’s take: “My father instilled in me that community service is that, it is service,” Holland said, referring to Jim Holland, who was among the original members of the Palm Coast council. “I am in a position where the set salary will not have an impact either way in my life.”

McGuire put his preference succinctly: “I don’t have a problem with the salary that I get now. What I would like to see is take the consumer price index each year and apply that to my base rate, and as far as compensating for expenses, if my expenses in the consummation of my duties to the city exceed a certain level, then I should be able to turn in an expense report, let it come before the council and get voted to compensate me for the expenses that I incurred that are not part of the normal remuneration for mileage and telephone. That’s my suggestion. I don’t feel really strongly about this, I’ve got to tell you. I signed up for this for $9,600 a year, and I’m here for the long haul.”

The administration will prepare an ordinance for the council to do with as it pleases at a subsequent council meeting. Essentially, council members will fill in the ordinance’s blanks with whatever preferred form of raise they can agree on. Voters will have no say: the city charter gives the council full authority to enact such raises by ordinance, provided the new compensation package doesn’t apply until the next election.

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25 Responses for “Palm Coast Council Members Favor Giving Themselves Automatic Raises Tied to Inflation”

  1. Ken Dodge says:

    “They will be choosing between four options: … [option 2] tying their pay to periodic raises indexed to inflation…”

    Well, that one certainly won’t fly, as any current recipient of Social Security retirement benefits will attest. We all received notices from SSA that for 2016 there would be NO cost of living increase over 2015.

  2. r&r says:

    Like all politicans they control the money and can do what ever they want to do with it..

  3. Rich Mikola says:

    It’s always about the money!

  4. gmath55 says:

    Gas prices are going down. Why should they get raises? That is what they said about why no cost of living increases for Social Security for 2016. But, a lot of seniors don’t even drive.

  5. Samuel L. Bronkowitz says:

    Any raise they pass should only be effective after the next election cycle.

  6. Freddy says:

    Enough with the BS that politicians are there to serve the public. They are all in for the money.

  7. DONE says:

    You all need to be thrown out , Raises ARE YOU KIDDING ME , the people and the things they want , people are trying to pay bills with $8.00 an hour pay and do not have food half the time , vote all of them out, and start new with people who want to help Bunnell , NOT $$$$$$$$$$ TAKE TAKE TAKE TAKE TAKE

  8. GoodLord says:

    to DONE: Just curious as to why we need to “vote all of them out, and start new with people who want to help Bunnell” These are council members for Palm Coast. And as taxpayer of Palm Coast, I will never vote for someone who is interested in ‘ helping ‘ (giving money) to Bunnell. The citizens and Council of Bunnell should figure their own problems out.

  9. OldSeaDog says:

    I think it is a wonderful idea IF the increase is MATCHED by a decrease in the City Manager pay to pay for it.
    (It certainly means the Council Job would be active supervision and not rubber stamping as is done now.)

    (That means work!)

  10. Veteran says:

    We live on military retirement (enlisted), VA disability, and social security. Zero COLA for all three. Sure gas is down but everything else is up at least 10%. So I say zero for council members!

  11. Rick G says:

    I hear all of you that would like your own income increased and I would favor that. If you want good government and you want government to act like private business then the Board should be paid accordingly… along with the City Manager who would be the CEO of that corporation… Its always amazing to me how people want quality personnel to run government but don’t want to pay them… You get what you pay for..

  12. chopshop says:

    it time to vote all of the money sucking bums out, starting with the mayor, council members, and the over priced manager, none of them are qualified to make that kind of money. Nobile and Shipley have been crying for a year about money because they are not qualified to hold a real job. total self interest at tax payers expense . VOTE THE BUMS OUT IN NOVEMBER ///////////////////////////

  13. confidential says:

    Look at the 50,000 plus the county commissioners make. Then lets be fair. Look how much the city manager makes…then lets be fair. I only would hope that our cities councilmen and county commissioners as well will get together to buy a piece of land and build camping sites for tents and cars with electricity hook ups and some bathrooms with showers and a large building hall area with a/c and electric outlets to have computers and recharge phones and organize some social services, counseling and jobs search.
    All with some pet designated walking and exercising zone. Because breaks my heart to see the homeless and their pets among us under the inclement weather. Often they are taken to jail just for being homeless and I do not know any law that allows that. Yes drug addiction, and mental health runs havoc among them but some of them are also our veterans…please do not be oblivious of our homeless. We are supposed to be in America the #1 in this world, but do not take care and help our homeless?
    Please do not be too harsh on me for my homeless pleas. Should we all be asking any candidates what are they going to be doing for our homeless among other problems?

  14. confidential says:

    I also would wish that anyone running for office will investigate over the following:
    Example: I I need to replace an exterior door in my PC home I have to pay a city permit of $200 if I need and A/C also have to pay an even higher permit if I do not recall wrong maybe $300 or $400, then my question is where all these fees are accounted for and where do they go. Also all the fines paid for violations especially traffic where do they go where is the penny for penny accounting of it done, shown and spent?
    Because sure do not go to social services for substance rehab, housing or medical to the less affluent then what do they do with all that huge income? We need new elected officials that will research and answer these questions. We also need to make sure that our local government spends locally the local generated taxes if they want to create jobs, as they seldom do it and lobby to stop bringing in foreign workers to replace for less $$ our American workers jobs.

  15. Geezer says:

    What dedication to the citizens of Palm Coast!
    Oh, excuse me:
    WHAT dedication to the citizens of Palm Coast?

    Self-serve isn’t only for gasoline stations….

  16. PCer says:

    Thank you Rick G. I agree. If we want quality people in those positions, then you need to pay for them. This is a full time job, not just a couple of hours a month sitting in a meeting.

  17. groot says:

    I agree with the mayor. What bothers me a bit is that the two people pictured above knew full well what they would be paid to do the job and they now have spent a lot of effort on a raise. If you look at what surrounding city elected officials are paid, say in Ormond, it is comparable. The ideal solution would be to have allowances for gas, clerical supplies and support, dry cleaning, etc…This is a small town, this is not New York or Chicago. If a person decides to run for council, it should be to serve the community. If you don’t have the time or cannot afford to do so, don’t run.

  18. Woody says:

    Hey Rick G.,Good Goverment?is this the same good goverment that built a city hall that a majority of citizens voted down 2or 3 times?

  19. Anonymous says:

    Self serving elected officials!!! They do not all work 40 hours a week, and should be more focused on what they can do to make the city better. New ones don’t start at the top of the pay scale and all others are apparently leaving so keep it where it is!

  20. Knightwatch says:

    I’d support an annual evaluation of expenses and fair compensation, but the council should be comprised of citizens who want to serve their community, not those seeking a full time job.

    And while we’re at it, I think we need to look at the county’s school board salaries. This board should be voluntary, also, with fair compensation to cover costs.

  21. Lin says:

    I’d like these politicians to have to give the employer (us) reasons why they deserve a raise — a la self-review.
    Prove their worth.
    Show their accomplishments.

    Our charter needs review if these guys can vote themselves a raise based on inflation that doesn’t exist for the rest of us. When they get elected they become the elite who have no connection to their constituents.

    They need to be recalled and so does the system that protects them with an unelected city manager.

    They remind me of Oprah’s you get a car, you get a car giveaway.
    Tennis gets $, golf gets $, now they get $ from their own picking our pockets.

    Stupid me, can’t believe I supported some of them.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I agree with OldSea Dog. if the counsel want to pay themselves more then they should do MORE. If they DO more then we don’t need as much from a city manager. Take the money from that position to pay for them as we will still be getting the same service from the citys management.

  23. just me says:

    @ confidential I don’t get why one would look to encourage more “homeless” or vagrants to stay here by giving them FREE stuff?? It sounds nice and compassionate BUT it is not most who are in such situations are there because of there own life choices. Should we help those who are in need and want to be selfsufficiant YES but that idea is nuts.

  24. Woody says:

    This is kind’a buying a house next to the airport and bitching about the planes.They knew the salary, not happy don’t run for office.

  25. Sea Dog says:

    Everyone knew what the pay was before they ran for the office. If you don’t like it pack it up and get out and allow someone who cares about the responsibility and not the pay take your place. Shipley is being foolish and committing political sucide. Who’s behind this Shipley? Holland is jobless and needs the bucks…is it Netts taking care of Holland before he’s out? No pay increases!

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