High Springs eyes pay hike for officials


Published: Thursday, September 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2005 at 11:27 p.m.
The annual pay for High Springs city commissioners could nearly double from what they receive now, despite protests from the mayor that the money could be better used elsewhere.
Commissioners agreed by consensus during a recent budget workshop to ask the city manager to budget for annual salaries of $8,400 for commissioners and $9,000 for the mayor, High Springs City Manager Jim Drumm said. Now, commissioners make $4,800 and the mayor makes $5,400, Drumm said.
High Springs Mayor Kirk Eppenstein said he wouldn't support a salary increase while there were city projects going unfunded.
"Oftentimes, we're faced with people making requests to have different projects done - anything from street lights to having roads paved - and we oftentimes don't have the money to do that," Eppenstein said. "While I think that commissioners put in a lot of time and effort, and that the hourly pay, if pay was increased, would still be very cheap to the taxpayers, I can't with good conscience vote for a pay raise."
But commissioners who requested the increase said the changing nature of the community and the changing role of the city commissioner in it required extra pay for longer hours and expanded duties.
"The job of the City Commission has changed," Commissioner Jim Gabriel said. "The city needs to be represented at all levels - the school board, the league of cities, lobbying in Tallahassee and even in Washington."
At the same time, Gabriel said, he and other commissioners own businesses and representing the city means time away from those businesses.
"For us to close our doors in the middle of the day to go to an afternoon meeting, that's asking a lot," Gabriel said.
Commissioner Johnny Thomas was the only other commissioner to question the increase, city officials said, and Thomas said on Wednesday he remained "wishy washy" about whether it was a good idea.
Thomas said because he retired on disability, he can't make more than $400 a month - the commissioners' current monthly pay - anyway.
"I feel like the commissioners are entitled to it," Thomas said. "But I don't want to overdo it like some of the city commissions in surrounding areas have."
In neighboring Alachua, commissioners voted last year to quadruple their salaries, increasing their yearly pay to $16,500 from the $4,200 they previously received. The move followed years without a salary boost.
Drumm said it's been a while for High Springs commissioners, as well.
Commissioners would need to approve the budget, then discuss and vote on the measure during a city meeting to enact the decision, Drumm said.
Amy Reinink can be reached at 352-374-5088 or reinina@gvillesun.com

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