TAMPA — Ever get a 41.6% raise at work without asking for it?
That’s what Tampa City Council members say happened earlier this month when Mayor Jane Castor’s administration presented a proposal to hike their salaries from $52,060 to $73,713.
“A few of us looked at each other like...!?!” said council member Lynn Hurtak, recalling the reaction when Castor’s chief of staff, John Bennett, pitched the idea.
Castor administration officials said earlier this month that some council members had made verbal requests for staff to take a look at their salaries. But current council members told the Times this week that they had made no such request.
When asked about that discrepancy, Castor spokesperson Adam Smith said administration officials had been referring to a request made by former council member John Dingfelder to have staff review council salaries. Records show he made that request before resigning his seat in March.
Hurtak, who joined City Council after Dingfelder resigned his seat, said she had no prior knowledge of the proposal until the Aug. 4 meeting, but says she sees its merits.
“It’s not a bad idea,” Hurtak said. “Part-time council is tricky. I’m in an odd space. I work, but (City Council) is my job now. I had to stop taking client work. I don’t think the mayor is wrong that (the proposed raise) encourages more people who don’t have ability to make jobs part time to run.”
Council member Bill Carlson said he thinks taxpayers deserve the best representatives, but they’re not paid like it.
“In the corporate world, you would never pay someone $53,000 to run a $2 billion business,” Carlson said, referring to the size of the city’s budget.
Orlando Gudes has been vocal since being elected in 2019 that the council needs more resources. That includes a higher salary, Gudes said, but added that he had not asked for the boost in pay.
As a retired police officer with a pension, Gudes said he is able to make things work financially. But, like Hurtak, he said he believes that serving on City Council in Florida’s third-largest city is a full-time job.
Residents have called for a stronger, full-time council, he said.
“The public is complaining because they want those services,” Gudes said.
Charlie Miranda, who has served on City Council on and off since the 1970s, says the pay raise is just a sign of changing times. When he started, the pay was about $8,000 a year, and council members mimeographed their own materials. When asked if he supported a raise, Miranda said he had questions about the plan.
Guido Maniscalco said he was also surprised by the mayor’s move, but pointed out that council members’ legislative aides make more than they do.
“I know 40% sounds like, ‘Woah,’” Mansicalco said. “But what is 40% compared to everyone else?”
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Maniscalco points to Hillsborough County commissioners’ salaries, which are $105,239.
Across the bay, St. Petersburg City Council members make $54,385.
“I know the county is bigger, but when you look at how Council operates ... we’re not just there on Thursday nights,” Mansicalco said, noting the multiple board meetings and city and community events that require council members’ attention.
The additional $21,653 raise would take effect when the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, according to Smith.
Council member Luis Viera has indicated he plans to scrutinize the proposal. And chairperson Joseph Citro said he’ll oppose a raise that takes effect before the March city elections and a potential April runoff.
Citro said voters should have the chance to vote council members out if they don’t like the pay raise.
The mayor’s proposed budget also includes a 3% raise for elected officials, which includes council members. That would take effect in May 2023.
A public hearing on the city’s nearly $1.9 billion budget will take place Sept. 6 and a final adoption on Sept. 20.
Tuesday’s budget workshop will begin at 9 a.m. in City Council chambers at Old City Hall. It will be broadcast on Spectrum Channel 640 and Frontier Channel 15 and is livestreamed at https://www.tampa.gov/livestream.