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Fort Lauderdale Commissioners Consider Raising Their Salaries By 50 Percent

On July 11 the Fort Lauderdale City Commission will vote on a proposal that would give commissioners and the mayor hefty raises next year. 

Commissioners now make $30,000 and the mayor $35,000 in positions that are considered part-time. The proposal would increase it to $45,000 for commissioners and $50,000 for the mayor. That’s a 50 percent increase for commissioners and 42 percent for the mayor. The increase would take effect in March 2018, after the next municipal election.

Commissioner Dean Trantalis first questioned whether the salaries were too low during a meeting in April. Trantalis said that the current salaries discourage potential candidates and the increase would simply provide a living wage. 

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“There are many qualified people in our community who are not running because of this current salary,” Trantalis said. “People who are running for the commission now have to be either rich, retired or in a job that they can do along with all the hours that they will spend being a commissioner. That really narrows down the number of people who can hold this office.”

After Trantalis brought up the issue, City Manager Lee Feldman, who reports directly to the commission, proposed increasing salaries for part-time Fort Lauderdale commissioners to make them in line with the median full-time income of city residents, with the mayor’s 10 percent higher. 

Fort Lauderdale’s elected officials last gave themselves a raise in 2002, when commissioners made $14,044 and the mayor took home $16,185. Under the new proposal, the city would reevaluate the salaries of the commission and mayor every three years. 

Salaries for municipal politicians vary widely across Broward County. At the low end, commissioners are unpaid in Sea Ranch Lakes, and commissioners collect $3,600 yearly in Hillsboro Beach. At the current salary levels, Fort Lauderdale commissioners make less than their counterparts in Lauderhill ($34,387), Miramar ($34,175), Sunrise ($40,634) and Tamarac ($31,907).

The proposal up for a vote Tuesday would make Fort Lauderdale commissioners the highest-paid in Broward County, surpassing Sunrise. Fort Lauderdale’s mayor would become the highest paid part-time mayor in the county. The only other mayor to be paid more would be in Plantation ($117,221), which has a different form of municipal government where the full-time mayor runs the city’s day-to-day operations.

At the commission’s meeting in April, Seiler and Commissioner Romney Rogers questioned the need for the increase. Rogers doubted that the increase would attract a better pool of candidates, and the mayor noted that their jobs are not full-time. Trantalis, for instance, also runs the Trantalis & Associates law firm.

Seiler said on Monday he favors the increase, in part because he would not benefit – he cannot run again due to term limits. Seiler said he often spends 25-30 hours a week on mayoral duties, sometimes in commission meetings that can top 12-hour stretches. “There has to be some realistic expectation of the hours you put in,” Seiler said.

Trantalis said he spends “no less than 30 hours a week” as a commissioner, and if he said yes to every request for his time, he would be doing nothing else for work. “This is becoming less and less a part-time job,” Trantalis said. “We are kidding ourselves to think you can just put an hour or two a day into being a city commissioner.”

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the proposal to raise their salaries at their meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall, 100 N. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale.

Update on July 12: 

Fort Lauderdale's lawmakers won't be getting the hefty pay raises some of them wanted after a narrow vote decided the part-time jobs didn't warrant it.

The 3-2 decision against the raises hinged on the three city leaders who won't be in their positions next year. Mayor Jack Seiler and Commissioners Romney Rogers and Bruce Roberts can't run again due to term limits and would not have benefited from the raises when they went into effect in March. (Roberts, however, is running for mayor.)

Commissioners Robert McKinzie and Dean Trantalis, who initially brought up the idea of raises, voted for it. Trantalis had said the raises were needed to attract candidates who might be turned away by the low wages. 

At $30,000 a year, the salaries for Fort Lauderdale commissioners will remain lower than their counterparts in four other Broward County cities. Mayors in six other Broward cities will make more than Fort Lauderdale's, who will continue at $35,000.