The Shakopee City Council approved a pay increase for council members and the mayor last week.
Annual salaries will stay the same — $15,000 for the mayor and $7,500 for council members — but will now include a $50 stipend for attending meetings at which they've been designated the official council representative.
The stipend, which will go into effect Jan. 1, won't extend to regular council meetings. Officials will be limited to a maximum of $50 per day.
"The thing about this job I don't think anybody realizes — it's 24/7. I don't get to shut it down," said Council Member and mayoral candidate Kathi Mocol, who voted in favor of the measure. "The more I talk to people about it, they're amazed that we work for as little as we do."
Mayor Brad Tabke initially proposed annual salaries of $35,000 for mayor and $10,000 for council members as a place to start discussion, he said. He last pushed for an increase in 2013, raising his own salary from about $7,800 per year and council salaries from about $6,700 per year.
"We need to have great people in office, and the way offices are currently set up, it is very, very difficult to have any sort of working class people involved in government," Tabke said. "And I believe that that's next to a tragedy."
But Matt Lehman, a longtime council member who often goes head to head with Tabke on city issues, said he doesn't buy the argument that the salary excludes certain portions of the population from running for office.
"I work 60 hours a week running my own business, including Saturdays," he said. "And I make it work."
The measure passed 3-2, with Lehman and Council Member Mike Luce, who is also a mayoral candidate, dissenting.
The council also signed off on a lengthened mayoral term and a switch to even-year elections.
The changes, which take effect after the 2017 election cycle, will bring Shakopee in line with many of its peers. Among the largest cities in Scott and Dakota counties, most have 4-year mayoral terms. Only Shakopee and Savage are holding municipal elections this year, according to candidate filings with the Minnesota Secretary of State.
The two measures also passed 3-2, after a short but animated discussion. Luce and Lehman, the two votes against, argued that the changes had moved forward without enough debate.
"Someone has the votes to do it and they're going to ram it through," Luce said.
"Pretty much," Lehman responded.
Luce went on to spurn the idea that even-year elections boost voter turnout — an argument used in support of the election cycle change — saying that voters in general elections "aren't even paying attention to us."
"That is such a narrow view of how things work," Tabke shot back.
Mocol said the opposition to the two measures didn't surprise her.
"That's why I started just putting the motion forward," she said. "I knew it wasn't going to be constructive."