If the city budget passes in its current incarnation, Mesa’s magistrates will enjoy their first salary increase since October 2004.
The City Council agreed during a May 24 study session to boost judges’ pay almost $11,000, taking the presiding judge’s salary from $139,402 to $150,000, and the city magistrates’ salaries from $119,350 to $130,000 annually.
The raise includes a 3 percent cost-of-living increase that other city employees will also receive if the budget is passed.
The council members considered the raise after presiding Judge Matias Tafoya informed them that the city judges’ salaries wallowed beneath market level.
Documents show that Mesa pays its magistrates less than do Valley cities with significantly smaller populations and case loads, including Scottsdale, Tempe and Glendale. Tafoya’s salary is lower than those of the presiding judges in Scottsdale, Tempe, Glendale and Chandler, as well as Phoenix.
“It seems appropriate to me,” Tafoya said of the proposed raises. “Mesa was the lowest paid of all the cities. Now they’ll be average.”
Councilman Rex Griswold supported the hike. He said he believes “you get what you pay for.”
“You want to get the best person for the job, not the cheapest, and then hold them accountable for running an excellent and efficient court system,” he said. “If you look at our statistics — the number of cases each judge handles and the quickness with which the cases are disposed — we seem to be doing a fairly good job.”
“He (Tafoya) ought to be compensated fairly for running a very large organization efficiently,” Griswold said.
The pay bump middles the magistrates among judges in cities of comparable size. Judges in Fresno, Calif., make $171,648 annually. Municipal judges in Kansas City, Mo., earn $136,512, while judges in Cleveland make $109,000, court representatives said.
In October 2004, salaries for Mesa’s magistrates rose from $106,849 to $117,000 annually. Since then, the magistrates have received one other cost-of-living increase.
The presiding magistrate has not received a raise since taking office in September 2003.
The council will vote on the upcoming fiscal year’s budget on June 25, just days before the budget year begins. If passed, the raises will be effective July 1.
City judge salaries
Kansas City, Mo.
**Fresno County Superior Court handles all cases for the city of Fresno. SOURCES: Mesa, Fresno County Superior Court, Cleveland Municipal Court, Kansas City, U.S. Census Bureau