Mesa City Council members make less than those in Phoenix and Tempe, and city leaders say the time is right for a raise.
Mesa pays its council members $19,000 each year, which is more than those in Chandler and Scottsdale, but less than Tempe, which has a population less than half the size of Mesa’s.
Mayoral candidate Rex Griswold said the low salary level has affected the number of people who want to run for office.
“It’d be a good conversation to have to determine what level and quality of people we get,” he said. “It’s getting harder and harder to leave a business and run, and a lot of these people are making rules for business.”
The time also would be ripe for a raise with the upcoming March election.
The City Charter dictates that the Council can change the compensation, but it will not take effect for six months.
It also cannot go into effect before new council members take office.
Since most of the City Council will be leaving after this term, it would be like a favor to the future members.
“People are shocked to find out how much we get,” said Vice Mayor Claudia Walters. “And they’re not shocked because they think we make so much money.”
Council members said they sometimes spend close to 50 hours a week working on city business.
If a member wanted to achieve only the minimum, it would probably take only 20 hours, Griswold said.
“But if you want to do it right, you answer your own e-mails and your own phone to talk to people,” he said. “I think connecting people to local government is important.”
City Council members usually get time off during the summer, but that only means fewer meetings.
“It’s a year-round job,” Walters said.
Mesa’s elected officials last received a raise in 1998, when the City Council voted to raise council salaries to $19,000 from $9,600. The mayor’s salary was raised to $38,000 from $19,200.
In contrast, the mayor of Phoenix receives $88,000 and the council members $61,600.
Phoenix residents recently defeated a measure that would have boosted the mayoral salary to $93,262 and council to $65,284.
Tempe officials receive a standard increase every year to keep up with inflation. It goes into effect every July.
Walters said she felt the salary should be adequate, but not so high as to attract people who only want the job for the money.
“But the family should not have to suffer or go without food,” she said.
In any case, salary discussions should be part of the annual budget talks, Walters said.