Pay raise proposed for Salisbury mayor’s post

At the strong urging of city business leaders, a committee will likely be formed to review the mayor’s salary and determine if it should be increased.

The Salary Review Commission would also decide if City Council members should receive raises. The panel’s decision would have to be settled six months before the next election and the raises wouldn’t take effect until after that election.

Mayor Jake Day is now paid $25,000 per year. City Council President Jack Heath is paid $12,000 and City Council members receive $10,000.

By comparison, the town of Berlin recently approved a pay raise for its mayor from $5,000 to $15,000 annually, the first pay hike in a quarter century. Town Council members’ annual salaries were increased from $2,000 to $7,500.

Ocean City’s mayor earns $30,000 per year, and Council members receive $10,000.

Salisbury has a “strong mayor” form of government, where the mayor acts as the chief executive. Ocean City, by contrast, have a City Manager form of government, where a hired administrator runs things with council oversight.

The $25,000 figure was enacted in the early 1980s, when W. Paul Martin Jr. was mayor. Adjusted for inflation, Martin’s salary at the time was approximately $60,000.

The idea for impaneling a Salary Commission was initiated by the Greater Salisbury Committee and Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Once a month we have a meeting with the County Executive, the County Council president, the mayor and City Council president and they ask questions. We give an update on the city and they ask questions,” Heath told the Salisbury Independent.

“On several occasions, a member who attended that meeting asked when we were going to have a review of the salaries. We ignored it a couple times and then they discussed it among themselves and drafted a letter. We’ll see what happens. It’s up to the mayor to form a committee,” Heath said.

The letter quotes the portion of the City Charter that states, “A Salary Review Committee comprised of five members to be appointed by the Mayor is hereby created to review the salary of the Mayor.

“The committee shall make a written recommendation to the City Council six months prior to the next election for Mayor, with the Mayor’s salary to be effective in the fiscal year after the Mayor’s current term expires. Salary recommendations shall be considered by the City Council and salary shall be set forth and adopted in an ordinance passed by the City Council.”

Chamber CEO Ernie Colburn and and GSC CEO Mike Dunn drafted a letter to the Mayor and Council President in October in which they wrote that Salisbury’s mayor, as “chief executive officer and the head of the administrative branch of the city government,” should be compensated with a salary that equals his duties.

“The Mayor of Salisbury is the CEO of a $57 million organization that employs approximately 420 people. We believe the salary of the mayor should be more reflective of the immense duties that come with the position,” their letter stated.

Colburn said the letter was hand-delivered to the City Council office on Nov. 1.

“With the growth of City of Salisbury, its economic growth, it is time to compensate the mayor with a salary that is commensurate with the responsibilities of the position,” Colburn said.

“They have ample time to make a decision,” he said. “The sooner the better.”

Day, who works full time as the city’s mayor, couldn’t be reached for comment.

“From my personal perspective, I believe the pay should be commensurate with the job,” Heath said.

“I think if you look at what the job entails, to ensure that we get a qualified good mayor, I think makes sense to make some adjustment. What that adjustment is, is not for me to say. That’s for the salary committee,” he said.

By City Charter, every four years there can be an appointment of a Salary Review Commission, generated from the mayor’s office. Once the committee is formed, it meets makes recommendations to the Mayor and City Council, Heath said.

The City Council then decides “whether to push it forward — and if it will go on the agenda,” Heath said. It is then placed on a City Council meeting agenda and voted on.


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