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City officials okay raises for themselves

Published Aug. 28, 2005

City commissioners voted to give themselves a 3 percent salary increase at their meeting Tuesday night.

The 4-3 vote comes just a few days after commissioners approved a property tax rate increase of $1 for every $1,000 of taxable property value.

Both stances had been criticized by some residents and businesses as excessive.

The 3 percent pay raise will increase the mayor's salary from $17,672.66 to $18,202.84. City commissioners' salaries will go up from $11,781.77 to $12,135.22. The salary increases take effect Oct. 1.

Vice Mayor Patricia Gerard said she had "gone back and forth" about whether to support the pay raise in light of the millage increase. In the end, she decided to support the measure.

"I think it's a fair and modest increase that we're looking at," she said.

Commissioner Harriet Crozier, Commissioner Jean Halvorsen and Commissioner Patricia Burke also supported the increase. Mayor Bob Jackson, Commissioner Charlie Harper and Commissioner Gay Gentry voted against the pay raise.

"We have made some extreme cuts in budgets," Gentry said. "I'm not going to be able to support this."

Jackson said he had calculated that he would be better off taking a city expense account rather than accepting a pay raise.

In the past, Jackson has said that without a pay increase, fewer qualified people will consider running for public office in Largo.

Burke said whenever her salary goes up, she increases her giving to the city by that same amount.

"I think every year we should have an increase in our salaries," she said, "and I'm not ashamed at all to say that."

The last time the commission approved a pay increase was in fiscal year 2003. The commission initially approved a 5 percent pay raise last year, but rejected the increase in the final vote.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, the commission approved the first reading of an ordinance to increase fees for using the city's parks and recreation facilities in a 6-1 vote.

Officials said the fee increases are necessary to cover the rising costs of Largo's recreation programs.

The proposed changes would affect facilities and programs that include the city's tennis courts, swimming pools and programs for before- and after-school care.

Crozier, the only commissioner to vote against the increase, said increasing fees could decrease use of facilities.

Also Tuesday, the city gave initial approval to increasing several Community Development Department fees.

Under the proposed ordinance, inspection fees, fees for moving a building and demolition permit fees would go up by 8 percent.

Reviewing revised plans would cost $25 per page. And the price of reviewing alcohol licenses would be $75.

The proposed changes would generate approximately $79,000 in additional revenue for the Community Development Department and $20,000 for the Recreation, Parks and Arts Department.

The commission will discuss both ordinances again at its Oct. 5 meeting.

Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at 771-4303 or cshoichetsptimes.com.

COMPARISON OF COMMISSIONS' AND MAYORS' SALARIES

PINELLAS PARK:

Population (2000 Census): 45,658

Mayor's salary: $15,653.82

City Council salary: $13,566.80

(As of Oct. 1, the mayor's salary will be $15,967.12, and the City Council salary will be $13,838.24.)

CLEARWATER:

Population: 108,787

Mayor's salary: $19,496.67

City Council salary: $16,247.42

LARGO:

Population: 69,371

Mayor's salary: $17,672.66

City Commission salary: $11,781.77

(As of Oct. 1, the mayor's salary will be $18,202.84, and the City Council salary will be $12,135.22.)