City Councilors approve hefty raises for themselves, mayor
Park City Council members gave themselves hefty raises on Thursday.
And they did not want to leave out Mayor Jack Thomas.
In a unanimous vote, the City Council approved a 71.9 percent increase in the salary paid to City Councilors. The annual salary jumps from $12,735 to $21,893.52. The mayor’s salary, meanwhile, climbs 81.3 percent. The dollar figure paid to the mayor soars from $23,467 per year to $42,553.92 annually.
A blue-ribbon commission recommended the salary increases amid worries that the compensation packages for the mayor and City Councilors was not adequate given the commitment of serving in elected office. There were also concerns that the compensation was a deterrent to attracting a diverse field of candidates in City Hall elections. The blue-ribbon commission studied the compensation of elected officials in other resort communities, including Palm Springs, Calif., Sun Valley, Idaho, and Jackson, Wyo., as well as elsewhere in Utah as it crafted its recommendations.
There were sporadic comments from rank-and-file Parkites about the compensation packages over the past few months, as it seemed increasingly likely the City Council would approve significant raises for the elected officials during the annual municipal budget talks. There was not organized opposition to the increases, which could have been politically sensitive in some situations. There is not a City Hall election this year.
The new salaries take effect on July 1, the start of City Hall’s next fiscal year.
The elected officials are also eligible for the municipal government’s family health and dental insurance plan. It is valued at $16,196.40 annually. They may receive the cash equivalent if they opt out of the coverage. The mayor receives a car allowance of $3,000 per year.
Thomas and the City Council did not spend extensive time discussing the increases on Thursday. They had talked about the topic at previous meetings.
The increases were the first of several decisions that could be made centered on City Hall politics. The mayor and City Council in coming months are expected to discuss whether to institute term limits and restrictions on campaign finances. Those talks could begin in September.
Discussions about campaign finance restrictions would follow in the year after what was the most expensive mayoral contest in Park City’s history. Thomas, then a member of the Park City Planning Commission, and City Councilman Andy Beerman raised and spent at unexpectedly high levels as each bid to succeed Dana Williams, who was the retiring three-term mayor. The talks about campaign finance restrictions will be constitutionally sensitive as political donations have been deemed to be protected as a form of free speech.
It is not clear what sort of debate will unfold regarding term limits. It has been rare in recent decades for a Park City elected official to serve more than three four-year terms. City Councilor Dick Peek said on Thursday voters determine term limits on Election Day.
Mary Wright, a Park Meadows resident, on Thursday urged the mayor and City Council to discuss term limits and campaign finance restrictions. The elected officials indicated to her that those discussions are upcoming. Wright, the only person who testified on Thursday prior to the new salaries being approved, said raises were needed. She questioned the size of the raises, though.
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Arlene Loble served as the Park City manager in the 1980s, a pivotal period that prepared the community for the boom years that would follow in the 1990s. Loble, who recently died, is credited with introducing a level of professionalism to the municipal government that was needed amid the growth challenges.