Queen Creek’s Town Council and mayor plan to triple their salaries tonight — without a public hearing.
The increase is being proposed because pay for the town’s elected officials ranks dead last among 14 cities and towns surveyed in 2006 by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, Assistant Town Manager Patrick Flynn said.
Queen Creek council members are paid $300 a month, and the mayor gets $500 a month.
If the proposed increase is approved, council members will be compensated $900 a month and the mayor, $1,500 a month. That means the annual cost to taxpayers will jump from $27,600 to $82,800.
The proposal also provides council members and the mayor with the same medical insurance benefits provided to town staff. The cost to the town, if all participated, would be $33,768 annually. With the exception of two of the cities
surveyed, all cities provided health care benefits for elected officials.
The proposal is on the council’s consent agenda, which is a list of items deemed “routine” and are approved by a single Town Council vote unless pulled by a council member for discussion. The item isn’t open for public discussion.
Councilman Jon Wootten, who supports the increase, said he doesn’t have concerns about the item being on the consent agenda without a public hearing.
“If a citizen stood up and said we need to talk about this, we would find a way to
make that happen,” he said. “This fits the criteria for something we would normally put on the consent agenda.”
Queen Creek resident Tom Bidlack said he supports the pay boost. But “I think they should get input from the public before rubber-stamping it for themselves,” he said.
The Town Council and mayor haven’t seen a pay increase since the town had a $2.4 million budget in 1998. The town’s budget is now $226 million.
According to the League of Arizona Cities and Towns salary survey, the median salary for council members was $1,300, and for mayors, $2,300. Queen Creek had the smallest population among the 14 municipalities surveyed.
The bump in pay would still have Queen Creek in the bottom third among the municipalities surveyed, Flynn said.
“This is a $200 million-plus operating corporation with a lot of assets; they are the board of directors,” Flynn said of the Town Council and mayor. “Council provides salary increases for staff because, if we get out of line, there’s turnover. Obviously these are political positions, but they are serving on regional issues. The competitiveness issues come into play.”
Wootten said he supports the pay hike because of the increased time council members are spending in meetings, committee assignments and connecting with the public.
“That does take time away from family and work,” he said. “If you’re not independently wealthy, it’s a sacrifice.”
Wootten also said that by increasing compensation for elected officials, it could widen the pool of people that could run for office.
Queen Creek resident Cynthia Buffington agreed, saying the proposed increase of salaries “is both insignificant and warranted.”
“If we as residents of Queen Creek want to encourage quality candidates to run for office, we must expect to compensate relative to the task they undertake,” she said.
Councilwoman Toni Valenzuela said she supports the proposed increase.
“It’s a long time coming and it’s not that we don’t appreciate the amount we get now, there is just a lot of time we’re putting in,” she said. “If other council members feel they don’t need it, they can donate it.”
According to a staff report, the proposed plan also provides a $50 per month cell phone reimbursement for elected officials who do not use a townprovided cell phone.
If approved, the increase will go into effect in June 2008.