Mayor Comptroller Want More

May 6, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Local Officers Compensation Commission is holding a public hearing Wednesday evening to hear what residents have to say about how much elected city officials should be paid.

The LOCC, which determines the salaries of the mayor, city commissioners and comptroller, will meet with the public at 7 p.m., Wednesday, in the city commission’s chambers on the ninth floor of City Hall, 300 Monroe Ave. NW.

Mayor George Heartwell has recommended to the LOCC that the position of Grand Rapids mayor — which pays $39,141 — carry a salary of no less than $85,000 a year because it is a full-time position.

“No modern-day mayor of Grand Rapids can adequately fulfill the duties of the office in less that 40 hours per week,” Heartwell wrote in response to the LOCC’s written questionnaire. “I think an argument can be made for equal pay with the city manager.”

Heartwell likened the city manager’s position to that of a chief operating officer and the mayor’s position to that of chief executive officer and chairman of the board.

Heartwell warned the LOCC that low compensation for the mayor’s office might limit the field of potential candidates willing to run for the office. He told the commission that he tracked the hours he spent on the job in January and February, and the hours ranged from 49 to 65 hours per week, the average being 59.9 hours.

At the LOCC’s April 20 meeting, commission member Dan Spetoskey noted that every year since 1992 former mayor John Logie had waived the increase offered by the LOCC, which is why the mayor’s position went many years without an increase.

City Comptroller Stan Milanowski recommended that his salary be raised from $54,159 to $71,257 — an amount he believes reflects a cost-of-living increase for inflation.

“The LOCC has caused the comptroller’s salary to sink to a level well below all management personnel within the comptroller’s department,” he wrote. “Both from salary history and the job description in the city charter, I ask the LOCC view this position equivalent to other city department heads as is clearly the mandate of the city.”

Milanowski indicated that if he were not an incumbent, he would not become a candidate for the position of comptroller at the present salary level.

City Clerk Mary Therese Hegarty said response to the LOCC questionnaire was optional rather than required. Second Ward Commissioner Lynn Rabaut was the only commissioner that volunteered to fill out the survey. She recommended no raise for her elected office.

“There is no money and the example must start at the top,” she wrote. Commissioners receive $22,496 per year.

At Wednesday’s public hearing, elected officials will have the opportunity to address residents and the public will have a chance to be heard, Hegarty said.

The LOCC plans to complete its determination by June 6. The final determination will then be presented to the Grand Rapids City Commission, which will have to either accept or reject the new salary proposal as is, without change. The compensation level determined for each elected official is established unless the city commission rejects it by a two-thirds vote.

The LOCC meets every two years to review compensation levels. Hegarty said the salaries for all local elected officials have not changed since 2002.    

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