By Jane Smith
Delray Beach city commissioners narrowly agreed on Aug. 18 to give themselves hefty pay raises.
They all said it was not the proper time to raise their pay in the middle of a pandemic. The vote was 3-2, with Vice Mayor Ryan Boylston and Commissioner Adam Frankel voting no.
“I don’t disagree it’s bad timing,” Mayor Shelly Petrolia said. “But if we don’t do this now, we will have to wait another 2.5 years.”
The raises will take effect after the March 2021 elections, according to the city charter. That means Petrolia, Boylston and Frankel would have to be re-elected to receive the new salaries.
The commission salary increased from $9,000 annually to $24,000. The mayor’s annual pay will go from $12,000 to $30,000.
Staff surveyed the annual salaries paid to elected officials in Boynton Beach and Boca Raton. Both cities pay their elected officials much more than Delray Beach does.
In Boynton Beach, commissioners are paid $20,000 a year, and the mayor’s annual salary is $24,000. In Boca Raton, council members receive $28,000 annually and the mayor makes $38,000.
Commissioner Juli Casale voted yes, as long as the pandemic situation eased at the beginning of next year.
Petrolia said they could vote to postpone the raises for six months if that was still the situation.
“The timing is bad,” Boylston said. “We are freezing raises, looking at layoffs.”
Interim City Manager Jennifer Alvarez said the city is not freezing raises. The city has a hiring freeze, she said.
Retired teacher Yvonne Odom told the commission “to vote your own conscience. That’s what you were elected to do.” Odom runs youth sports programs with her husband and is the grandmother of teen tennis star Coco Gauff.
“Make sure essential workers are paid well,” Odom said. “But I’m not in favor of cutting personnel.”
Frankel agreed with his fellow commissioners that they are “woefully underpaid” when he voted for the salary increase Aug. 11 on the first reading. He also said he wanted to think about it and changed his mind when voting Aug. 18.