Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and all 13 City Council members would receive raises of about $2,000 under a new budget set for final approval on Friday.
City staff said they are still working to calculate the full costs associated with the raises. They are expected to represent a very small portion of the $1.6 billion budget in the works for 2022.
“It’s always a unique position in a way, because most people don’t have the ability to vote on or set their own compensation, but the way state law is structured, we have no choice but to be the ones,” said Council Member Andrew Johnson, who introduced the proposal that added the raises to next year’s budget.
A Minnesota law dating back to the 1970s states that the city’s elected officials can set their salaries before a new term starts and those salaries “shall not be increased or diminished during the term for which such officer has been elected.” The new term begins in January.
The mayor currently receives a salary of $136,011, and council members receive $106,100. Johnson’s proposal calls for giving the mayor a 1.5% salary increase in 2022 and 2% annual increases for the remainder of his four-year term. It calls for giving council members — who have two-year terms — a 1.5% increase in 2022 and a 2% increase in 2023. Johnson said he’s been told they could revisit the council members’ salaries after the next council elections.
In addition to their salaries, elected officials also receive various benefits from the city.
Johnson described the salary bumps as “modest” and said he believes they reflect the increased duties that come with representing a growing city that is tackling increasingly complex issues. He noted that the cost of living is rising. Some estimates have prices on track to rise 6% as a result of inflation.
“It’s an extremely stressful, challenging role that few people are willing to sign up to do, and I think in the health of our democracy, being penny-wise and pound-foolish in this regard will have longer-term implications of fewer people seeking office,” he said.
One person, local activist Chuck Turchick, spoke against the raises in a public hearing. He argued that elected officials should instead be paid the median household income in the city, which was closer to $63,000 at the time of the most recent Census estimates. He argued that figure would put their salaries closer to those of many residents they serve but also account for the high workload that comes with their jobs.
Johnson said he hoped this proposal would allow the city to spread out the raises over several years, rather than paying them out in one large sum as the city had sometimes done in the past. He said he hoped introducing them during the budget process would be more transparent than it was the last time elected officials received raises. In 2017, then City Council President Barb Johnson intentionally kept the pay hikes off the public agenda.
The current proposal also instructs city staff to “undertake a comprehensive compensation analysis” that would show how Minneapolis officials’ salaries compare to those of politicians in other cities with similar styles of government. Minneapolis voters in November approved a charter change that designated the mayor as the “chief executive” overseeing the daily operations of most city departments and focuses the council on legislative tasks, such as vetting budgets and passing ordinances.