City officials’ salaries ;br; rank near the bottom

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 1, 1999


Wednesday, September 01, 1999


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If the Austin City Council votes in December to increase council and mayoral salaries after the next election, Austin would go from near the bottom of the salary heap to near the top.

Set at the same level for the past 13 years – $6,000 for the mayor, $4,500 for the council member at-large and $4,000 for each council member – the proposed increase would take the mayor’s salary to $9,000, council member at-large to $7,800 and council members to $6,600.

However, because elected officials cannot vote in a raise that will affect themselves, the raises would not be effective until Jan. 1, 2001.

Council member Dick Lang proposed the increase at Monday’s budget workshop for 2000.

"A lot of people don’t realize how much work the council people do," he said. "I know it takes me away from my work; I had to hire a part-time person just to cover the time I’m away on city issues. Being in city government is more complex than ever before, there’s more meetings, and more scrutinizing to do with not raising taxes for so many years … It’s not a money issue, it’s just compensation for time spent."

Mayor Bonnie Rietz voted against the last raise in 1988, when she was a member of the council. This time, she’s in favor.

"Always before, I’ve said I don’t support a raise," she said, "but after 13 years I feel it’s justified and well-deserved."

Rietz, who averages well over 40 hours a week between morning office hours, phone calls, meetings and community events, said she would not keep the extra money if re-elected next term. Instead she would put the funds toward the flower fund, which pays for the flowers decorating the Main Street and other central areas.

In a survey of Albert Lea, Faribault, Owatonna, Winona and Rochester, the current salary for Austin council members is rock bottom. The mayor is $240 away from the bottom of the pile.

Here’s how the above-mentioned cities compare, from largest to smallest population:

– Rochester’s (also part-time) mayor gets $26,395 while council members pull in $15,220. The council president, elected by the council from within the council, gets $19,448.

– Winona’s mayor earns $8,500 per year while council members each get $5,500.

– Owatonna’s mayor makes $9,000 per year; the council president the same. Council members earn $7,200.

– Faribault comes in at the bottom if the Austin City Council does vote for a raise. The mayor is paid $5,760, the council members $5,160.

– Albert Lea’s mayor is paid $8,500 per year. Council members each receive $4,800.

– Each member of the Mower County Board of Commissioners is paid $16,600 a year plus a per diem that averages between $500 and $1,000 each. Austin Board of Education members receive $3,600 per year; the school board chair gets $4,800.