Imagine this: It’s your job to determine how much you should be paid. You’ve got to publicly discuss and defend that amount, then vote on it. That process may be one of the reasons the Provo City Council hasn’t changed its pay in more than 10 years. To make things more predictable, independent and less awkward, the council is considering some changes.
As it stands, the council makes $12,000 per year, plus $100 per month for expenses. Members also can be reimbursed for additional expenses. City law allows for a cost-of-living adjustment, by the same percentage as full-time city employees.
In two weeks, the council will decide whether to appoint an independent commission that would meet every four years to evaluate council members’ salaries. The council and mayor would appoint the group in February. It would give its report in April.
Under this system, the salary changes automatically would go into effect the following January. The council wouldn’t need to vote specifically on the recommendations, unless it chose to reject or alter them. But the salary amounts are part of the city budget, so members would vote on them as part of the overall budget.
“I think that our citizens would let us know if they felt like it was not right,” said Councilwoman Kim Santiago. “We could always vote to reject it or reduce it or change it.”
“An independent group is a positive way to accomplish it without it being overly political.” — Clifford Strachan, Provo City Council’s executive director
Determining and giving yourself a raise is uncomfortable for council members everywhere, said Clifford Strachan, the council’s executive director. “An independent group is a positive way to accomplish it without it being overly political.”
Plus, council members are more likely to err on the side of undercompensating than overcompensating themselves, said Mayor John Curtis. So an independent commission is a good alternative. “Think not about you but those that will follow you, and is it the right amount. The less involvement you have in that, I think, the better.”
An independent commission already exists to evaluate the mayor’s compensation. It has three members appointed by the mayor, three by the council and one by the six members. The mayor and council will appoint the members in February. Under the proposal, the same committee would consider the council’s salary.
Curtis said the first question someone asked him after he took office was what he was going to pay himself. That’s when he decided something needed to change. The independent commission takes the burden off the mayor. And with the timing every four years, it gives potential candidates for the office the salary information they need.
He said he’s fine with the council adding its salary evaluation to the existing committee, with one caveat. “Don’t mess up a good thing. … I don’t know if it’s perfect but it’s a lot better than it was.”