GNV commissioner salaries set to nearly double 

Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe and Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos at the Nov. 29 special meeting.
Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe and Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos at the Nov. 29 special meeting. (Photo by Seth Johnson)

The Gainesville City Commission will vote Thursday on a change in calculating commissioner salaries that would result in almost a doubling of the current salaries.  

Commissioners currently make $37,085.85, while the mayor earns an additional 25% bump to $47,199.21. If the proposed ordinance passes Thursday and at a second reading on Dec. 15, the salaries would be calculated based on the state formula for county commissioners.  

The new salary formula, if implemented in January 2023, would raise a commissioner salary to $71,015.09 and the mayor’s salary to $88,768.86. The state’s formula is based on population, along with other multipliers.  

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The proposed ordinance would start the new formula on Oct. 1, 2023, with the new financial year. 

Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said the commission needs the higher salaries to best guide the city and allow all qualified candidates to run for office. With the lower salary, he said potential candidates can’t afford to leave their jobs.  

The change in salaries also represents a change in how the commission is viewed—from a part-time job to a full-time job.  

“I think we should have a professional commission,” Hayes-Santos said in a phone interview. “We’re not a small little city. And I think that that’s something that we have to kind of move past and how we look at our city.” 

He called Gainesville a complex city with its own utility, homeless service, transit agency and about 2,400 employees. He said the city has more employees than Alachua County, but county commissioners currently receive a much higher salary.  

For 2021-2022, county commissioners earned $82,930.  

Ed Braddy
Courtesy of Ed Braddy Ed Braddy

“It doesn’t change based on the duties of the job and how much effort or how much work it takes to do it,” Hayes-Santos said about the current salary formula. 

Ed Braddy, former Gainesville city commissioner and mayor, said the increase is “grossly excessive.”  

“More broadly, it should be seen in the context of what the commission is really trying to do, which is move Gainesville’s governance into a strong mayor, strong commissioner form of government,” Braddy said in an interview.  

He said the commission should consist of citizens providing guidance for the city, which gets implemented by the professional charter officers and staff members.  

A change to such a strong mayor form of government would require a charter amendment and ballot initiative. Braddy said by implementing these salaries and already working like a professional commission, the next step of passing the charter amendment will be easier.  

Commissioner David Arreola pushed for such a ballot initiative last year, but he dropped the proposal following former Commissioner Gail Johnson’s resignation, according to Florida Political Review.  

The job, Braddy said, involves legislative responsibility with policies, financial responsibility to make sure the numbers work and constituent services. He said the responsibilities should involve one or two meetings a week, and any work outside of the job requirements shouldn’t be considered for the salary.  

“Those three things do not warrant a $70,000 or $80,000 a year salary,” Braddy said. “The only thing that does is if it becomes a 24/7 full-time professional responsibility.” 

Hayes-Santos said that professional responsibility is what Gainesville needs as a growing city.  

“I think we want commissioners who can devote their time to that fully instead of going into meetings unprepared because they have to work another job,” Hayes-Santos said.  

He said the public wants and deserves engagement from commissioners that takes up time and can be difficult to work around with another job. Commissioners also need to analyze the hundreds and sometimes thousands of backup documents before entering meetings with decisions on the line.  

He added that the state’s formula is based on population, and as the city grows or shrinks, the salaries will keep track.  

Mark Goldstein, former Gainesville mayor and commissioner, agreed with Braddy. He said the job is designed to be part-time with the professional staffers employed to implement and do most of the lifting.  

Commissioner David Arreola
City of Gainesville Commissioner David Arreola

“The public has a real problem paying people who raise their own salary without a basis to do so,” Goldstein said.  

Under the current system, the commissioner’s salaries fluctuate based on inflation. According to the city, the salaries are scheduled to increase to $40,386.49 for city commissioners and $51,399.94 for the mayor on January 9, 2023.  

Goldstein said if commissioners choose to engage with special interest groups or corporations, then they should do so on their own time and not add to the job requirements to justify higher salaries. He said the appropriate comparison is to other cities of similar size and form of government.  

In Ocala, the mayor earns $550 a month, while city council members earn $250 a month, according to Spectrum News 13. Ocala has about half the population of Gainesville, but Jacksonville is the largest city in the state with nearly 1 million residents. Its city council members will earn $56,804 in fiscal 2022-23.  

John Barrow, former city commissioner, spoke at the city commission’s meeting on Nov. 17. He said the commission back in 2002 began working on salaries and took a lot of flak for it. 

“Clearly, it’s time to have the discussion again and readdress that issue,” Barrow said. “I think the commissioners do need to be compensated accordingly.”  

At the Nov. 17 meeting, both Mayor Lauren Poe and Arreola related the difficulties of trying to work another job while serving in office. The ordinance passed 5-1 with Commissioner Harvey Ward in dissent and Commissioner Reina Saco absent.  

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Mike

Professional responsibility is what we need. The voters don’t need to hold us responsible, trust us, we’ll do that for them. It’s too hard building an empire with just a part-time job.

Janice Garry

As a citizen who has been involved in city affairs for some years, I can tell you that it is ridiculous to characterize the job of a city commissioner or mayor as a couple meetings a week or a part time job. That may have been true for the remote past, but it certainly is not true now. Commissioners are expected to be well informed about a broad array of complex issues, ask intelligent questions, make thoughtful decisions and have time to meet with the public on city issues. That takes time. A conscientious commissioner would work more than forty hours a week to accomplish the demands of the job.

I agree that commissioners should be paid a full time wage for a full time professional job. Perhaps scaling in the pay increase would help soften the budget impact.

Erin

I agree, working on the commission is close to or even above a full-time commitment. But this huge pay raise will put them on par with my husband, who has a PhD and over 30 years experience in his position, and also works well beyond a 40 hour week. Good heavens, the county commissioners earn way more! What is their education and experience? I think an incremental raise would make more sense, giving us time to adapt the city budget. I’d like to know more about the state’s formula. “The state’s formula is based on population, along with other multipliers.” I haven’t looked into it, but I’m guessing that median income, housing prices, etc., are a lot lower in Alachua County than in Miami/Dade, Broward, Brevard, Sarasota, etc.