St. Paul council increases salaries

Elizabeth Putnam

St. Paul City Council members boosted their salaries 50 percent Wednesday, saying goodbye to their annual $30,000 salary.

The increase will take effect in 2004 and elevate council members’ income to $45,000 per year.

Two members opposed the ordinance, saying council members are public servants.

Council members said the increase will not affect current budget plans, and each council member is up for re-election in 2003 and might not benefit from the increase.

Deputy Mayor Dennis Flaherty said the mayor supports the increase and believes citizens will get what they pay for.

“It is assuring you have the most qualified people,” Flaherty said. “I have heard little opposition from the community.”

The seven part-time council members have not received a raise since 1994, and the ordinance will increase their pay to half of Mayor Randy Kelly’s $93,146 salary.

The mayor’s salary includes a 3 percent automatic pay raise every January.

Council member Chris Coleman, who said he was not surprised to see opposition, proposed the ordinance.

“People expect to get the best,” Coleman said. “You can’t raise a family, make a difference in the community and work elsewhere.”

Council member Jim Reiter opposed the increase.

“There are plenty of qualified candidates willing to run for $30,000,” Reiter said. “It’s a financial incentive for doing community service.”

Council member Kathy Lantry, who voted in favor of the increase, said the position is full time and takes time away from her family.

“I love my job, but it’s a financial sacrifice too,” Lantry said.

A public hearing last week about the increase drew only one speaker. Former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer spoke on behalf of an increase, saying current pay is not enough for the job’s responsibilities.

Philip Fuehrer, a constituent of Lantry’s and interim student life director at Metropolitan State University, said the increase is too much.

He said council members should take little compensation for their work.

“More often than not we can have a council member work 30 hours a week and do a quality job,” Fuehrer said. “They can’t be at everyone’s beck and call. That’s not fair.”

Tim Erickson, a homemaker and constituent of council member Jay Benanav’s, said council members don’t receive enough compensation.

“For them to have a second job seems impractical to me,” Erickson said. “They have several responsibilities and high expectations on them.”

Only two council members have outside full-time jobs. Coleman and Pat Harris are associates for Dain Investments.

Minneapolis City Council
membership is considered full time, and members receive $65,424 per year. Ramsey County Board members are part-time officials and are paid $49,325.

In other news, the council unanimously voted to support building a St. Paul stadium for the Twins.

“We are more than willing to build a stadium,” Flaherty said. “Anyone will support it.”

Elizabeth Putnam welcomes comments at [email protected]