Gainesville City Commissioners voted 4-1 on Thursday to change the method by which their salaries are calculated, nearly doubling their pay.
The salaries will not be fixed, given population changes, but based upon the figures from this fiscal year, the change will increase city commissioner salaries from $37,000 to $71,000 and the mayor’s salary from $47,000 to $89,000, according to the ordinance. The change will cost the city about $290,000 to $403,000 per year.
City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos, whose term ends in January, voted in favor of the ordinance.
“I think our neighbors deserve full-time commissioners who can dedicate themselves to the job fully without having to work second jobs and being pulled away from city business,” he said.
Hayes-Santos said he has spoken to many people who would run for city commission but can’t afford to live on a city commissioner’s salary.
“So what it leans more to is people who are wealthier or people who are retired who can take the time to be able to be a city commissioner,” he said. “I think we should make sure that being a city commissioner is open to everyone in our community.”
City Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker, who voted against the ordinance, said she originally supported the idea in hopes it would allow more women and minorities to run for city commission. But after hearing input from other city workers, she said, she decided to change her vote.
“I genuinely am concerned about the people that work here. I’m genuinely concerned about the people that live in this city who are watching,” Duncan-Walker said. “This is a hard decision for me, because I get it, but I have to make a choice tonight and I have the opportunity to prioritize something else.”
Commissioners in the City of Fort Lauderdale, which has roughly 40,000 more people than Gainesville living in it, voted in 2019 to more than double their salaries, with city commissioners voting to be paid $66,000 and the mayor to be paid $79,000.
Robert Pearce, a 70-year-old Gainesville resident who has been involved with the Stephen Foster Neighborhood Association, supports the ordinance.
“I definitely think a significant raise in pay is both appropriate and necessary in order to attract the most qualified candidates,” he said. “Exactly what number that is, I would have to be more familiar with what other local governments are paying for similar jobs.”
Pearce also said he found it appropriate that commissioners voted for their own pay raise, as opposed to including the ordinance in an election.
The ordinance will go into effect for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2023.