“To say that my recent City Council compensation proposal caused a mighty controversy in this community is an understatement,” Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin said at the end of a workshop with his colleagues on Tuesday, before opening the door to scaling back the proposal. He was referring to the council vote last week to raise council members’ salaries from $9,600 a year to $44,700 a year, and the mayor’s salary a few thousand dollars more than that.
The public response since Alfin first proposed the raise on March 1 and again last week has been a crush of public criticism about the amount of the raise, derision about its rationale–namely, that it would attract a better cut of candidates, including more professionals, even though three of the five council members are in that category today–and the launch of a petition campaign to alter the city charter and require all future salaries to be submitted to voters.
The discussion Tuesday was brief. While Alfin said he was willing to lower the amount of the raise, he left it to his four colleagues to propose actual numbers. “The purpose for this discussion,” Alfin said, “is to reconsider and to discuss the last discussion we [had] and to make it perfectly clear, based on your comments, the public’s comments, the overwhelming majority of comments that I have heard: It may be the right moment to discuss reducing the increase that I had originally suggested in favor of something a bit less and more palatable at this moment in time.”
Eddie Branquinho, who has opposed the raise all along, said he’d be willing to go along with a raise that would bring the salaries to $12,000 to $15,000 a year. Nick Klufas, who supports the original raise, has previously proposed phasing it in over time, and on Tuesday said the actual raise could bring salaries to $35,000, more in line with what Flagler County School Board members are paid. (The actual salary currently is 35,949.) That would amount to a 275 percent increase over current salaries. The number seemed to echo with Alfin and Fanelli, who–just appointed to the council and due to leave in November–did not provide a number, only an encomium for much better pay.
Ed Danko liked the original Alfin proposal and would leave it where it is.
Alfin, who frequently hangs fire on his own counteroffers (he’s a Realtor, after all) did not offer up a number, coming closest to echoing the Klufas proposal–but adding to it a benefits package similar to what employees receive. That had not been part of his original proposal. If it were to become part of the package, the actual cost to taxpayers would slightly exceed the original Alfin proposal, since benefits tack on roughly a third of the cost of salaries.
The council last week voted 4-1 to approve Alfin’s numbers: a 365 percent increase for council members, bringing their salary to $44670, not including the $2,100 annual allowance they each get for gas and cell phone service. So the actual compensation would be $46,770. For the mayor, the raise would be 307 percent, bringing the salary to $46,470, or $48,570 with the car and cell phone benefit.
“The justification for my support is still the same,” Alfin said of his raise proposal, before again defending it. “Palm Coast was different years ago–smaller and less complex,” he said. “Our next council must be called upon to update all that’s been done in the past, with a much broader skill set to govern with smart growth, expanding economic goals and enhanced health care, education and needs. If Palm Coast keeps moving swiftly in this direction, so must City Council.”
He then presented a multi-point defense, again short on evidence, saying for example that higher salaries “may subdue some of the toxic toxicity” that has hampered council meetings, that “the original concept of a part-time” council is “outdated,” and that better pay could mean better council members.
“The reason I make that statement is because I would like to open up this discussion today to our members of City Council to discuss at what level they might feel it’d be appropriate for City Council compensation to be changed,” Alfin said, opening the door for a rollback.
Branquinho said “this astronomical raise” was changing the rules of the game in the middle of the game. He favors a ballot proposal. Otherwise, the council would be snubbing the public. “And if anybody hasn’t seen the reactions and the discussions, then some of us over here are kind of sleeping,” he said. No one he’s heard or talked to agrees with the proposed raise, he said. “And once again, I really do not take it as a compliment. I’m borderline offended that saying that if anybody gets a better pay, they will do a better job than me. I’m actually offended. I don’t think that is a compliment,” he said, directing his criticism at Alfin.
“This is the wrong time to do it,” he said, but he would be in agreement with salaries raised to the $12,000-$15,000 range.
“I would also like to discuss possibly phasing our raises,” Klufas said, citing the school board salaries. “But do I see a path where we can potentially have more viable candidates because of the salary increase? Absolutely.”
Danko said he voted for the increase as it was last week and would do so again. “I think we did the right thing for the future,” Danko said. “And you know, we have more people here upset about the Green Lion than about this pay compensation. So I’m not that concerned about it. I’m willing to stay where we’re at and move forward with what we did. I think it’s a good move.” (He was referring to the Green Lion Cafe at the city-owned Palm Harbor Golf Club. When the city, largely at Danko’s urging, voted to sever the lease with the Cafe, it unleashed a wave of public opposition that forced the council to backtrack. The opposition was, in fact, louder and more numerous than that generated by the salary proposal, though the Green Lion misstep did not trigger a petition to change the charter.)
Fanelli could have been the deciding vote at that point. But he did not propose a number, other than hinting that he might support something of a lesser size. “I would be amenable to looking at what the appropriate compensation is and how to roll it out. I do hear that the community is concerned about the amount of the compensation,” he said. He then spoke of the proposal from the perspective of a full-time employee in a demanding job (he works at the school district’s central office, where he is in charge of student services.) “It is costing me both time and money to serve the citizens of this community, which I don’t think it’s fair to whoever serves in the seat after me,” Fanelli said. “I have thought about if I was interested in this seat in the future, not in this upcoming election, but in the future. How could I balance that. It would require me to maybe look at a different role, a different job either within the school district or elsewhere, probably a position that was less demanding of my time and money in order to be able to give what this position requires right now.”
The closest Alfin came to revealing where he stood was when he said that the majority of residents are not “familiar with the job itself” and the time it takes, leaving it to council members to make the decision on their own salaries. That suggests he will be pushing for the higher end of the proposal.
There’s nothing irregular about altering the ordinance the council voted on last week. Contrary to a statement Alfin made, the ordinance does not have to return for a second reading next week, or any week for that matter. It may be held back for weeks, or brought back. But the amount cited in the ordinance can be changed–and voted on at second reading.
Branquinho proposed postponing the vote until mid-June, around the time of a deadline for the petition Michael Martin–an elected official in his own right, at the East Flagler Mosquito Control District–is circulating to alter the charter. Alfin dismissed the idea. “I’m not aware of the circulation or the number of signatures on any such petition nor am I aware of any way to validate the signatures on a petition,” he said, though it’s the city clerk’s job to validate the petitions, and the council was made aware of the effort last week by Martin himself.
By charter, a salary change cannot be approved later than six months before the next election, at least not if that salary is to become effective after that election, and the council seems to be in an inexplicable hurry to get that salary increase approved now. So it will appear on the council’s agenda again next week, with the actual raise to be filled in–if different than what the council approved last week.
Julie S says
AGAIN the is ridiculous!!!! Put it to a vote by the people who live here!!! Money grubbing greedy!!!! In all my 33 years living here I have NEVER been so angry!!!!!
Are the current City Council Members trying to negotiate their severance packages since, they have to know intuitively, they will be voted out of Office for their total disregard for the Citizens of Palm Coast; citizens they took an Oath to support. What I find so disappointing was Councilman Nick Klufas continued to state that the Residents of Palm Coast would have an opportunity to vote on the increase via a ballot while the City Attorney sat their quietly until confronted by a Resident who knew that raises were implemented via an Ordinance and the Council could vote for its own raises. Obviously we have reached a crossroad where the trust of the community whom they serve has been destroyed. Surely hope that the next Board has the Interests of the Residents of Palm Coast as the top priority.
First it was the over-development of PC whereby any Developer who made a presentation in front of the Council was approved [even unhappily] now their fiscal responsibility comes into question.
This seems very unusual. Normally any changes of this kind don’t take effect until after the next committee is seated.
Land of no turn signals says says
What a great guy offering to cut back on a raise that none of them deserve.Crooks never feel any guilt for there actions.How about 5 million loss for that park?
Tell me are the members of the council concerned about doing the best for our community or interested in fattening their wallets.
Do they deserve the raise they are proposing…great job with the waste collection contract….no I don’t believe they deserve a raise.
If we give larger salaries we can get better candidates…is the council saying they are not the best people for the job….how distressing that they seem to demean themselves.
This is our city…voting for any raise for the council should be put to the public
How nice willing to decrease amount of raise but then we will want benefits…which will probably bring the cost higher then the initial raise amount.
The council is suppose to represent and do the best for the citizens of Palm Coast…seems they are more interested in helping themselves.
Oh how thoughtful. They deserve maybe a $2.00 an hour more raise, they don’t do anything anyway.
That is still way too much, plus perks. Don’t forget these council people are either working and making good salaries or are retired with pensions, ira and social security.
$19,200 is 100% of the $9600 they now make . That amount should be the maximum. Even then, that’s pushing the envelope. Even that’s a lot of money for deciding on a splash pad and fiber net or whatever it is.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Nothing more pitafull as a graveling fool who knows he F….ed Up! Screw him, and throw the BUMB out!!!! Impeach this looser!!!!!
Mike Martin says
I think the Council must be tone-deaf to the outraged response to the Council passing his raise Ordinance. He suggests he is willing to lower it, then when a proposal comes from Councilman Klufas to set it at $35,000, they suddenly introduce the addition of benefits? It is long past time to reign in this Mayor and Council. Join me in changing the City Charter by signing our Petition at charterpetition.com. The link to download the Petition is at the bottom of the page. Please return the signed, original Petition form to me, Mike Martin via U.S. Mail. my address is on the Petition Form, above the part you fill out. Please tell your friends and neighbors to sign the Petition too. Together we CAN do this!
David Schaefer says
Thanks Mike my wife and I just mailed in our vote.
Would it be alright to print out a few and leave them at the library? Would they allow that? How about the local VFW lodge?
While most people are struggling to make ends meet, the mayor and city council votes themselves a huge raise. This is out of control and each council member that voted for this and the mayor needs to be voted out of office! Enough is Enough!!
Jack Howell says
It looks like the City Council is still delusional in their discussion about a significant pay raise. I would support a smaller raise such as Councilmember Eddie Branquinho is recommending. I don’t for one minute believe that a higher salary would attack better candidates. That’s wishful thinking and just pure BS! If the proposed pay raise goes back to the original number, then I want to see these elected officials working full time at city hall!
DMF in Florida says
AMEN, JACK! Wish you were still on the Council – a voice of reason!!!
They want full-time salaries, then get an office in City Hall and be there M-F from 8-5 like other normal people do.
I guess he can shell out some of the funds out of his big pocket!
Wake up P.C. says
I will not vote for any of you councilmen who voted yes to this fleecing of taxpayers. How can we all complain of a swamp in D.C. when we have one right here in our own backyard?? I am a proud republican but Alfin and company disgust me.
David Schaefer says
Alfin , Dufus, Trump lover Danko and the new guy need to be shoveling horse crap because you are worthless at holding a job here in the city of Palm Coast.
While I don’t personally live in Palm Coast, I will speak up and say I thought this was their negotiating “PLOY” all along. Demand a completely outrageous pay increase, and then plan to “fake being reasonable” and accept a lower amount. . . which is still an “OUTRAGEOUS” amount for a part time job!
Reading these comments, it appears the commissioners underestimated the tax payers of Palm Coast. . . who saw through this whole “SHAM”! Every single one of them should be voted “OUT”! Beginning with the new Mayor. . . who actually should be impeached! I am outraged with you Palm Coasters!
Randy Jones says
If the salaries increase, should the filing fee to run for office (or the alternative number of signed petitions) increase proportionally? Some have claimed that increased salaries would result in “better” candidates. Could one suggest that if the filing fees do not see a corresponding increase we would have dozens of candidates (“better” qualified or not) seeking election?
Like pigs feeding. These people just don’t think they get enough.
Hey Mayor allow the taxpayers of the City of PC to vote on if you and the council gets raise increases. It is corrupt when you get to vote for your own raises. You said you request was “mighty controversy” that is putting it mildly. What us taxpayers and voters feel is this is showing a new elected Mayor not at a job one year who hasn’t even proved himself to be a complete CORRUPT INDIVIDUAL PLAN AND SIMPLE. To be honest we already want you out of the job. Go sell more real estate and leave the taxpayers of the City of PC ALONE.
It appears to me that the Council decided to run the salary ordinance up the flagpole to see if anyone would salute – and we don’t.
“It is costing me both time and money to serve the citizens of this community, which I don’t think it’s fair to whoever serves in the seat after me,” Fanelli said. Then why did he apply for and accept the position?
South Bend, Indiana (my home town) has a population of 103,500; a budget of $386 million; the city council is paid $20,200; and the elected Mayor was paid $113,000 in 2020 ($62,000 less than the $175,000 paid to the Palm Coast City Manager).
And please remember – Palm Coast has a Strong City Manager/Weak Mayor-Council system. All the Council does is set policy, and the City Manger is responsible for carrying it out as best as she sees fit. The City has a budget department that creates a tentative proposed budget, the Council then considers and modifies it. The Council does NOT create the Budget, and does not do the background work; so why pay them $44,670 or their scaled back number?
Janice Nickol says
Paying a higher wadge has never meant or guaranteed a quality employee selection. That comment is an insult to anyone who is intelligent, but not making a high wage, and is working their way up to a better position through experience and educating themself.
I worry about the changes that are happening in the growth of this City. City and county commissioners voting on developing communities without complete proposal, or not liking the development. Is that smart?? I don’t think so. If it looks like a rat, smells like a rat, then it probably is a rat.
Would a confident and intelligent leader just vote on something to get it passed? I would hope not, sounds like the money for the county talked the loudest, so they did.
That is scary, it wasn’t for the good of the people, environment, or the potential buyer.
Alfin doesn’t get it, the taxpayers of the City of PC are saying NO to his request for raise. He has already showed us he will never get re-elected and we now already want him out of office. He is out for himself and is not in the best interest of our community. Hit the road and go scam some where else.
K Mineau says
Totally ridiculous. No one gets even 100% raise.
Vincent A. Liguori says
The next council meeting date on this matter is Tuesday, April 19,2022 -9am at city hall. A massive citizen turn out is needed. Plan to attend and speak up during public participation.
The mayor and council are willing to negotiate from a 365% pay increase down to a 275% pay increase.
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!! These guys are a stitch!
Yeah, Mayor scale back your ego and own self-importance first then the salary increases
Hey Alfin, I just read Waste Pro is hiring drivers… $2000 signing bonus. Think about it.
DMF in Florida says
To all concerned citizens:
PLEASE scroll back and read the post from Mike Martin about the petition being circulated. He needs all the help he can get to achieve the minimum of 7,500 petitions to be certified before the deadline. The City Charter NEEDS to be revised to give the taxpaying voters the right to approve raises,
Maybe if this Council weren’t so dysfunctional the past couple of years people wouldn’t be so outraged!!!
I am not anti-elected official … I once worked in a municipal position and know what goes on behind the scenes. That is why I am so angry about this attempted-fleecing of the city’s residents – many of whom are retired and on a fixed income! How do they propose to pay for these raises when the fiscal year budget is already established through September 30? What happens to the millage rate next October? And subsequently our taxes in November?
Every raise I ever got my entire professional life was MERIT BASED. I earned it! Have they? Not if measured against some of their recent poor leadership decisions like the Green Lion and the WastePro debacle.
Other than Commissioner Branquinho I’d like to see them all removed from office tomorrow. THAT would be a “Good Friday!”
Edith Campins says
Not surprising, since he has always been out of touch with what citizens want…Danko says he hasn’t heard any negative comments about the proposed raise. This was the strategy all along. Ask for a ridiculous amount and then settle for a slightly less ridiculous amount. Everybody will breathe a sigh of relief that the worst has been averted. No, we are not falling for it. Sign the petition and let’s vote them all out. Too bad Branquino won’t run again. The only voice of reason in this mess. Don’t forget the costly City Hall that was crammed down our throats after the majority vote against it.
Alfin do us taxpayers all a huge favor and step down as Mayor you don’t deserve even the current money we are paying you. You have showed us all that you do not have the City of PC in your best interest. All you care about is what you can take from the City of PC for yourself. How can you even show your face in public asked for such an outrageous amount of salary increase. You are making us look like we are fools but guess what you have made yourself the largest fool in our city. Hit the road please.