Ogden leaders apparently nix plan to give themselves a 13% raise
OGDEN — A proposed 13% pay hike for the Ogden mayor and City Council, contained within the proposed 2023 budget, is apparently no longer under consideration.
“I think the 13% is definitely off the table at this point,” said Janene Eller-Smith, executive director of administration for the Ogden City Council.
Instead, officials will more likely consider a 4% hike or no increase at all when the time comes to formalize the 2023 spending plan, possibly on Aug. 2, she said. The City Council approved a pay hike for themselves on Dec. 21 last year and another raise for themselves and the mayor on April 5 as part of efforts to make their compensation competitive with what other area elected officials earn.
As proposed in the 2023 budget, which has yet to be finalized or approved, Mayor Mike Caldwell and the seven City Council members are in line to get 13% raises, same as the rest of the general employees working for the city. Firefighters are to get 14% pay hikes and police officers are to get an 8% boost, with funding for the increased pay to come from a proposed 18.8% property tax hike.
Elected officials, or some at least, are uneasy at the prospect of giving themselves a raise, though, and last Tuesday the City Council unanimously approved a measure giving themselves wiggle room to set their salary schedules separate from other workers. City code otherwise requires elected officials to give themselves the same cost-of-living pay hikes that most other workers get.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Councilperson Luis Lopez said allowing council members to set their own pay represents a conflict of interest.
“I believe strongly that council members, we shouldn’t raise our own salaries,” he said. “I see it as a conflict of interest, to me personally. It is a little bit ridiculous, honestly.”
Councilperson Richard Hyer, for his part, noted the time council members dedicate to the job, regarded a part-time post. Council members “do give value to the city,” he said, also noting that they face the same pressures brought on by inflation as everyone else.
A compromise proposal City Council members discussed at a prior work session calling for a 4% pay hike “was very reasonable,” Hyer said.
On Wednesday, Eller-Smith said the discussion about tweaking or eliminating the proposed pay hikes for elected leaders stemmed from the realization that their wages were already roughly at benchmark levels recommended by a consultant that looked into the matter for the city. That study figured in the pay hikes approved last December and last April.
That the city is considering a property tax hike to boost workers’ pay, though, figures in Lopez’s unease with voting to boost the reimbursement elected leaders get. “Even more reason not to do something like this,” he said. He thinks elected leaders’ pay should perhaps be fixed by some sort of independent commission.
Council Chairperson Ben Nadolski said Wednesday that sentiment among council members seems to vary. “I personally am for no increase for ourselves, at least nothing above benchmark,” he said.
A 4% across-the-board pay hike for city employees in the 2022 budget increased the base pay for city council members from $18,814 to $19,566 as of July 1, 2021. The City Council then voted 6-1 on Dec. 21 to boost their base pay from $19,566 to $22,500, up 15%. Lopez voted no.
On April 5, the council voted unanimously for pay hikes for all city employees, which boosted the base pay for City Council members from $22,500 to $22,950, up 2%. The pay for the mayor, a full-time post, went from $133,766.59 to $136,440.90.
Per the 2023 budget proposal as currently put forward with the 13% pay hike provision, the base pay for City Council members would rise from $22,950 to $25,933.50. The pay of the mayor would go from $136,440.90 to $154,178.22.
Apart from making their wages competitive with what other elected leaders earn, City Council members also argued that boosting their pay would encourage others with modest incomes to seek the elective post in elections to come.