Niceville City Councilmembers and the Mayor will earn a monthly salary of $600 per month after a 4-1 vote of the council to begin the practice. Councilman Bill Schaetzle was the dissenting vote.
The idea of council pay, which was brought to the council by the city’s charter review committee, was a topic of intense discussion before the vote at Tuesday’s council meeting.
According to charter review committee member Doug Tolbert, who was on hand for the city council meeting, the committee approved the measure after looking at other cities of similar size to Niceville. “We had a lot of back and forth discussion on whether or not it was right,” Tolbert told the council, “We know we were putting the city council in a tough position politically to vote for their own pay,” Tolbert told the council they ultimately ended up in favor of the measure because of the number of hours and incidental expenses council people run into – as well as the chance to open up the council to people who are not independently wealthy. “I voted in favor of this to give everyone a chance, rather than just independently secure people [to serve on city council]. If anybody wanted to give [city council] a chance that could take some time off [work], $600 might offset a day or two of their time per month to be able to participate in the city council.”
Niceville Fire Chief Tommy Mayville spoke emphatically in favor of the pay for council members, citing the amount of work they must do on a regular basis. “I was for in [in the past] and I am for it now,” Mayville said, addressing the council and the public, “I think this is something that is very much needed to reimburse you for your time [even though] it is nowhere near enough. I would like to make sure that everyone recognizes that.”
Councilman Bill Schaetzle sat alone in opposition to the change to yearly pay of $7,200. “I came into this position with my eyes wide open, knowing that it was a non-compensated position,” the councilman told his fellow council members, “And I put in a lot of hours, as do most of our council people on the dias here. I knew it was not paid. I do it for the love of the city and no personal agenda to try and move the city forward in a way that we as the council, can direct it in the future.”
Councilman Sal Nodjomian pushed back on councilman Schaetzle’s logic, arguing that the money was not really for them – it was about the council’s future. “It’s a valid point,” Nodjomian said of Schaetzle’s argument, “but we’re setting the table for those who come after us as well. And, if we are trying to attract the best and the brightest, and if there’s an opportunity to take care of someone else, that is something that we need to be cognizant of.”
While the motion was passed by the council, it is not immediately clear when the pay will start for the councilmembers. The fiscal year 2023 budget allowed for council pay, so it will not be over and above what the council has already budgeted for. The total cost to taxpayers will be $44,200 per year – or about $2.76 per citizen.
So, all of this talk about Niceville City Council getting paid for their work made me wonder – what do other council’s members get paid around the county? Here’s what I found.
Okaloosa County Commissioners
Okaloosa County School board
Valparaiso City Commissioners
Niceville City Council
Fort Walton Beach
Salary data for Crestview, Destin and Fort Walton Beach came from this Pensacola News Journal article. You know how much I love a good graph – so here is how the cities and county organizations stack up to each other:
As you can see, Niceville’s new council pay (the red dot) is above the trendline which was set by other local governing entities. The city of Fort Walton Beach tracks that line perfectly – and the City of Crestview comes in a mite below the trend line.