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Woodbury council, mayor's pay to increase next year

Woodbury's elected officials all agree they didn't run for office for the pay.

At the same time, City Council members want to encourage future candidates to serve on the council without making it too enticing to the point that they think it's a money-making operation.

Council compensation was once again a topic of discussion at last Wednesday's workshop. It was originally brought up in October.

This time council members decided to raise their pay for two years and revisit it after that.

City Council has not reviewed their compensation, which is part of a city ordinance, since 2006.

Staff did research on comparable cities and determined that Woodbury is "significantly behind the average wages for the mayor and council members," according to Jody M. Vogl, administration services director.

She said Woodbury's pay is about 30 and 34 percent less than average for council and mayor respectively.

The last time the ordinance was updated was in September 2006 with the mayor's salary increasing to $710 per month and council's pay to $545, according to city documents.

The increase represented a 6.2 percent bump for the mayor and a 5.8 percent raise for the council.

"None of us, at least on the current council, are doing this for the pay," Council member Christopher Burns said last week. "I'm not at all gung-ho on changing our pay."

He added that each council member serves on a number of boards, whether they're appointed or voluntary, which requires significant time commitment.

The council also became part of the Housing and Redevelopment Authority and the Economic Development Authority since the last pay adjustment.

If they were to calculate the mayor's pay on an hourly basis, it would be less than minimum wage, Burns said.

The average pay around the Twin Cities is $12,952 for mayor and $9,280 for council annually.

Woodbury's mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens is paid $8,520, while each other council member gets $6,540 per year.

Other elected officials in cities like Burnsville, Coon Rapids and Brooklyn Park are paid more than their counterparts in Woodbury, although they serve in cities that have about the same population.

"Not to sound arrogant or smug, I think we're better run than them," Burns said.

Council member Paul Rebholz echoed what Burns said, but added the city needs to have a pay that encourages residents to run for office.

"If we're going to move forward, I think we should have some sort of a phased approach," he said.

He suggested the city raise the mayor's pay to $11,000 and council to $8,100 annually, which is half the raise that staff recommended.

Then in two years, the council would revisit it after catching up with others in the metro first, he added.

Staff said they recognize it's a difficult and "awkward" conversation for the council to have, but Rebholz said it doesn't have to be.

"Personally, it's really not that awkward because the reality is we should get paid for what we do," he said.

Council member Julie Ohs said she doesn't mind being on the lower end of the spectrum and it's OK with her to be far from the top. But she said the pay should at least be somewhere in the middle or near average.

"Salary for the mayor is definitely embarrassing considering the work that she and her predecessors have done," Ohs said.

Council member Amy Scoggins said the last community survey shows residents' satisfaction with the city and quality of life in Woodbury.

Positive feedback shows the good work city staff and council have been doing, she said, adding "somebody is doing a good job here."

She also agreed it's time to increase the pay without bumping it up too much.

"I don't want the numbers to say 'wow they make good money on the council,'" Scoggins said.

The council will take action on the pay increase at a future meeting. If approved, the raises won't be effective until after the 2012 election is over and starting in January 2013.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.