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Tampa City Council backs raise of more than $20,000

City Council members said other cities average council salaries and,salaries of mayor and department heads and their own aides make it an issue of fairness
Tampa City Council members Thursday mostly supported a proposal by Mayor Jane Castor to raise their salaries by more than $20,000.
Tampa City Council members Thursday mostly supported a proposal by Mayor Jane Castor to raise their salaries by more than $20,000. [ Charlie Frago ]
Published Aug. 16

TAMPA — Their legislative aides make more than the seven members of Tampa City Council.

And that’s just one reason why council members said Thursday that they deserve a nearly 42 percent raise that would bring their salaries to $73,713 — more than $20,000 than they currently make. The pay hike is scheduled to take place on Oct. 1 when the city’s nearly $2 billion budget comes into effect.

That didn’t sit well with council member Luis Viera, who said he “strongly, strongly, strongly opposes” the raises taking effect before City Council elections next spring.

Viera said he thought the discussion was a reasonable one. But he but took issue with the argument by colleague Orlando Gudes and noted by city staff for the move by Mayor Jane Castor to include the outlay in her budget request: Residents had asked for it.

Just two or three residents have mentioned higher City Council salaries to him, Viera said.

“It’s not something the public is clamoring for,” Viera said. Affordable housing, an improved transportation network, yes, he said, but not better pay for council members.

Stephanie Poynor, a prominent community activist in South Tampa, told council members that the proposal was in line with other Florida cities and would allow people who aren’t independently wealthy to consider running for the council.

“Look around the room in front of you. Most of those folks are making significantly more than your salary,” Poynor said, referring to the high-ranking staff in the council chambers.

Guido Maniscalco said raising his salary to close to that of his legislative aide was only fair.

The raise “is bringing it up to par with what our aides are making,” Maniscalco said, adding that he can’t afford to buy his grandfather’s home in West Tampa, which used to be an affordable neighborhood but now boasts listings of more than $400,000.

Charlie Miranda was the only council member whose support for the measure appears in doubt. Bill Carlson wasn’t at the meeting, but has said he supports the raise.

Service to the city should be why someone runs for City Council, Miranda said, noting he still works two jobs at nearly 82.

“We’re here throwing ourselves under the mercy of the bus,” Miranda said. “It’s not about money, it’s about service to the public, basically just like the military. You know what you’re getting into when you sign up.”

Chairman Joseph Citro said the current council has “ faced more issues in the last 3½ years than any other council I know of.”

He mentioned the coronavirus pandemic as an example. But the current council has also weathered an extraordinary period of conflict with the mayor’s office this year with the resignation of council member John Dingfelder in March and legal action taken against Gudes and Carlson. All three council members have said they were targeted by Castor for opposing some of her policies. Other council members have said the current mood at City Hall is dour and tense.

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Citro predicted that the “core of the council” — all of whom are up for reelection — would “reap the benefits” of their struggle. He joined Viera saying that he wanted the raise to take effect in May, after city elections in March and April.

Tuesday’s workshop was a chance for council members to weigh in on Castor’s $1.9 billion budget proposal. Two budget hearings on Sept. 6 and Sept. 20 are scheduled before council members vote on the budget.

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