Tension between commissioners overshadowed Thursday’s regular meeting of the Gainesville City Commission, but between the verbal sparring and recesses, the commissioners moved forward on several items.
In a 5-1 vote, the commission decided to begin the process that will increase the salaries for commissioner and mayor. If passed, the salary increases would begin Oct. 1, 2023.
Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos, who is term-limited and will not benefit from a salary increase, proposed the change. The motion directs staff to draft an ordinance that will allow salaries for city commissioners to mirror the state’s population-based formula used for county commissioners. The ordinance will return on Dec. 1 and 15 for first and second readings.
Switching to the county commission’s formula will allow an increase in salaries for the city commissioners that several members said were needed. It was not immediately clear Thursday how much the salaries would increase under the state formula.
City commissioners are currently paid $37,085.85, while the mayor’s salary is $47,199.21. The mayor is paid 25% higher than the commissioners because of an increased number of responsibilities for that position.
Under the proposed ordinance, the mayor would continue to receive 25% more than the commissioners.
“I think we’re one of the most complicated cities out there because we have a full-service utility, because of all that we do for homelessness,” Hayes-Santos said. “We do everything.”
He said the city has grown, and the job had increased in demand.
Both Mayor Lauren Poe and Commissioner David Arreola discussed the difficulty of working a job outside the commission.
Hayes-Santos said having a more livable salary for commissioners allows a wider diversity of citizens to run for office. With the current salaries, he said the office tends toward the independently wealthy or retired citizens.
Commissioner Harvey Ward dissented to the motion, saying he didn’t want to affirm the item since he will take over as mayor in January.
Like Hayes-Santos, Poe and Arreola are term-limited and neither will benefit from the change, and both voted for the motion. Commissioners Cynthia Chestnut and Desmon Duncan-Walker who will remain on the commission after January also voted in favor. Commissioner Reina Saco was absent.
Also at Thursday’s meeting, the commission unanimously approved the appointment of Brecka Anderson, the current assistant city auditor, as the interim city auditor.
City Auditor Ginger Bigbie, who has been with Gainesville for three years, submitted her resignation on Nov. 8 and will stay through Jan. 13. Bigbie recommended the commission appoint Anderson to fill the role.
The next city commission, which takes off in January, will search for a permanent city auditor along with four other permanent charter officers.
The mayor and Anderson will meet to negotiate terms of her contract and bring the contract back to the commission in December for approval.
In other business, the commission accepted a $6 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration for the Gainesville Regional Airport.
The commission also approved several other items as part of the consent agenda. An item approved on the consent agenda is not discussed by the commission during the open meeting, but is approved as a group. The items approved in the consent agenda include the following:
- Awarding a contract to C.H. Johnson Consulting Inc. to a feasibility study for a sports complex at the corner of NE 8th Avenue and Waldo Road.
- Approving a list of legislative priorities that includes money for a mobile command and heavy rescue unit for Gainesville Fire Rescue, $500,000 for an extension of SW 47th Avenue, $500,000 for behavioral health initiatives, $115,000 for a law enforcement drone equipment.
- Establishing a community land trust with Bright Community Trust Inc.
Editor’s note: The current city commissioner and mayor’s salaries updated in this story.