I noticed the Rochester City Council and Olmsted County Board are planning raises for themselves next year. When the council’s pay raise was discussed during the last city council meeting, the mayor said the goal is to get the city council's salaries closer to the county board’s pay, but she added they aren’t there yet. How close are they? -- Interested taxpayer

It looks like the council has achieved its goal, and in some ways exceeded it.

In 2019, the city’s six council members’ salaries were less than half what Olmsted County’s seven commissioners received. The city officials earned $21,712 compared to the $43,820 commissioners saw in their paychecks.

At the same time, the mayor earned $37,657 for the year, and the city council president’s salary was $27,743, still below the commissioners’ earnings.

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That year, a few council members questioned whether pay was an issue that kept people from running for office, since a successful candidate might need to cut their work hours or drop a job based on the requirements of elected office.

It was a question within their scope of work, since council members, as well as county commissioners, are in the unenviable position of deciding their own salaries.

While setting your own pay sounds ideal, I’d be the first to admit that I’d struggle to convince my employers to pay me what I know my vast intellect is worth. As a result, I let them determine my salary, so I have more time to ponder the questions of the universe.

The council didn’t get to do that in 2019, since there is no outside body in place to make a recommendation or otherwise set their salaries.

Instead, they developed a plan based on the local median income and split the raises in two parts, one put in place at the start of 2020 and the other was delayed until 2022 because of the pandemic.

With the planned 2022 salaries, city council members will technically have a pay rate that exceeds what county commissioners recently approved for themselves.

The six council members will have annual salaries of $55,840, while the commissioners’ annual pay will be $50,470.

A keen observer, such as myself, will notice that comparing city and county pay isn’t as easy as it seems.

County commissioners also receive a $500 monthly stipend, boosting the annual income to $56,470, which tops the pay of the city council’s ward representatives.

Whether any of this spurs more interest in running for elected office continues to be debated, and you don’t need to be as smart as I am to know that any future pay increases will be the subject of debate, as well.

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