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Edina City Council gives itself a pay hike

  • Article by: MARY JANE SMETANKA
  • Star Tribune
  • December 26, 2012 - 11:09 AM

When Jim Hovland first ran for the Edina City Council, he didn't know that council members got a paycheck.

"I never started doing it for the money, and I was surprised when I became a council member that we were paid for it," the now-mayor of Edina said last week.

The money -- $10,348 a year for Hovland, $7,758 for other Edina City Council members -- is no substitute for a regular job. Last week, after a lot of hemming and hawing, the council gave itself raises that won't take effect until January 2015.

Mindful of tough economic times, it will be the council's first pay hike since 2008. Councils in Richfield and Eden Prairie will get raises as of Jan. 1; councils in Golden Valley and Fridley have rejected raises in the last couple of years.

Though Edina's council had discussed raising their pay over several meetings and had a study to show that their compensation was below average among area cities, they still hesitated when it came time for a vote last week.

Council member Ann Swenson stepped in.

"I don't think you have to worry about justifying this, mayor; you work really hard and we all do," she said. "Let's not have any more angst about it. Let's just vote."

The raises were unanimously approved.

Future Edina councils may not have to face similar decisions about their own pay. As part of the pay raise resolution, the city now has an ordinance that will link future council pay raises to the Consumer Price Index used by the state Office of Management and Budget. Council pay will automatically adjust along with the CPI.

A 2011 employee pay study for the city by Springsted & Associates included a survey of City Council compensation. Edina ranked below average among 18 cities that included Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Hopkins, Minnetonka, Plymouth, Richfield and St. Louis Park. The Edina mayor's pay was 17 percent below average and the council's pay was 15 percent below average.

Because state law requires that an election take place between the council approving raises and getting the increase, the pay increases don't take effect until Jan. 1, 2015. The Edina mayor's pay will increase to $13,500 and other council members' pay will go to $10,740.

"By the time this raise takes effect, it will probably [have kept pace] with the percentage increases that employees get," Hovland said.

He said he still feels awkward about the raise, knowing that many other people haven't seen raises since 2008. Yet the pay is a relative pittance for the hours that the council puts into their job. Hovland estimates that he spends 10 to 20 hours a week on city business, meaning he gets paid between $10 and $20 an hour.

It's far less lucrative than his regular job as an attorney, and in fact takes him away from his good-paying job.

"It goes back to the idea that no one does it for the money," Hovland said. "I appreciate it, believe me. It's nice to have that extra help. I don't think anybody in town would begrudge us the increase. People know how much we work."

Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380 Twitter: @smetan

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