Council forges ahead on touchy subject – raises

The Port St. Lucie mayor and City Council decided Monday to continue the process of giving themselves raises.

The mayor earns $49,843 per year and council members make $35,431, plus the same health insurance and retirement benefits as other city employees.

The council voted 4-1 to set the mayor’s annual pay at the same rate as the St. Lucie County commissioners, which is $80,389 for 2018-2019.

The councilmembers’ annual pay would be set at a proportionate amount of the mayor’s pay. The council members pay is currently about 71 percent of the mayor’s pay, but that could change.

The council still must hold two public hearings on ordinances that would make the raises official.

Councilwoman Jolien Caraballo dissented on the vote, but didn’t explain why during the meeting.

The rest of the council members argued they need to increase the pay of the mayor and council to encourage highly qualified people to run for the positions in the future.

“You want to attract the best people to the job that you can,” said Councilman John Carvelli. “It’s not an easy job. You’re always on the clock. The amount of preparation that goes into each meeting is not easy.” Mayor Greg Oravec said he supported the pay increases because he believes the state’s eighth largest city deserves a full-time mayor.

Florida law empowers municipalities to set the compensation of their elected officials.

The city code gives the mayor and council the authority to raise their own pay, but the pay raises do not go into effect until council members chosen in the next election are seated.

The pay of countywide elected officials and state elected officials is set annually by a population-based formula established by the state legislature.

St. Lucie County commissioners earn $80,389 annually and School Board members earn $39,109.

The proposed pay hikes for the mayor and council have already become fodder for criticism on social media, Oravec said.

“It’s almost impossible for us to have this conversation because it’s always politically charged,” said. “It’s almost impossible to do without coming off as self-serving to some people.”

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