Citizen Staff Writer
CITY ELECTION TUESDAY
Proposition 100 – raises for the mayor and Tucson City Council – would cost the city $78,000 a year.
Out of a $1.2 billion budget, that’s 0.01 percent (rounded up).
If history is any indication, the proposition stands little chance of passing.
The idea is simple enough. Give City Council members a raise, from $24,000 a year to $36,000 a year, and boost the mayor’s salary from $42,000 a year to $48,000.
A smaller raise proposed to voters failed in 2003 and again in 2005, albeit narrowly in the last city election.
Voters last approved a salary increase in 1999, when they raised council members’ salaries to $24,000. Council members got another raise in 1995 – the first since 1983.
Council also get a city vehicle, an expense account, retirement and health care, while earning two-thirds of the average salary for Tucsonans.
They do, however, tend to have other sources of income. Nina Trasoff has a consulting business and Steve Leal works at Pima County Adult Probation. Mayor Bob Walkup is a retired executive from Hughes Missile Systems (now Raytheon).
“I’m not worried about him eating cat food,” said Mary Schuh, of the Pima Association of Taxpayers.
Schuh opposes the salary increases but says she’s not being “mean-spirited” about it.
“The timing is unfortunate because of the economic downturns going on around us,” Schuh said.
She also points out that candidates know what they are getting into when they campaign for the job.
The raises were placed on the ballot at the behest of a citizens’ advisory council. The raises would attract more candidates for office, said Jose Ramirez, vice chairman of the Commission on Public Service Compensation.
“We feel that this salary increase is not about the people sitting on the council and whether we like them or not,” Ramirez said. “We can attract a wider group of people to run for office. They are able to feed their families.”
The commission looked at the kind of work that goes into council jobs and compared local salaries to those in similar-size cities. They decided to suggest a $36,000-a-year salary because that is about the average income in Tucson, Ramirez said.
Council members could do a better job if they didn’t try to hold down other jobs, said Carol West, a Ward 2 councilwoman leaving office in December.
“You end up with staff having to make a lot of decisions,” West said, because the staff members are in the office when decisions must be made. “I think the people want their council members making those decisions.”