There has been much discussion in Rochester concerning the salary increases city council members voted to give themselves and the mayor. Various reasons have been given by council members for their action. In fairness to all, were the salary increases actually in line as compared with Minnesota cities similar to Rochester?
During a recent Ward 2 debate, Council Member Michael Wojcik remarked that as the only other city with 100,000+ population, Rochester was comparable to Minneapolis/St. Paul, thus the need for comparable pay. Really? The 119,756 count of Rochester is a far cry from the combined 748,964 population of Minneapolis/St. Paul. For obvious reasons, we should eliminate the Twin Cities and focus on cities more similar to Rochester to determine if the extensive raise was justified.
Using the same population database to determine the largest Minnesota cities, in order of descending population after Minneapolis/St. Paul, they are Rochester, Duluth, Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Plymouth, Maple Grove, Woodbury and St. Cloud.
Government style, home rule charter vs. statutory, full time vs. part-time positions, salary determination, and current mayoral, council president and council member salaries are also important. I reviewed each city charter and then verified/obtained additional information by contacting each city clerk or other appropriate official by phone. All were extremely helpful in providing and verifying information.
The results? With the exception of St. Cloud and Duluth mayors, all mayoral positions are part-time, with a compensation range of $14,682-$26,400. Unlike Rochester, with its council/city manager/weak mayor government , St. Cloud and Duluth have a strong mayor/council government. St. Cloud and Duluth mayors are compensated, respectively, $50,000 and $97,500. But then, they also have the city manager role. In contrast, Rochester’s mayoral salary rose from $37,658 to $65,700 (74.5%) with the original proposal of $78,840 (109%), while leaving city management in the hands of a professional manager ($194,750).
In these 8 cities, all city council positions are considered part-time. With the exception of Rochester and St. Cloud, there is no differentiation between council president and member salaries. St. Cloud allots only a $,1500 difference, at $14,000. Rochester’s council president salary was $27,743, and is now $47,304 (70.5%) with an original proposal of $60,444 (118%).
At $21,712, Rochester city council salaries were already higher than the other 7 cities before the increase. They are now $39,420 (81.6% increase) with an original proposal of $52,560 (152%). The original proposal may remain the goal for Wojcik based on his previous comments. Council salaries of the 7 other cities ranged from $10,636 to $13,800, with 2-3% increases, similar to Rochester’s past history of raises.
Rochester’s city council determines its own salary, now linked by resolution to the Olmsted County HUD Adjusted Median Income. Plymouth uses the Consumer Price Index. Other cities have mayoral and council salaries determined by state statute, or by a non-biased panel, or by fee for service determined by a charter commission.
The majority of cities also do not adjust salaries until after a general municipal election. In Rochester, changes are made after the ordinance publication. What a deal.
So, are these substantial raises justified for what has always been considered a part-time civic duty?
Bari Amadio is a professional student currently studying fine arts+design at RCTC, a medical actor and a member of the Charter Commission.