Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly members approved on Tuesday evening a $31,000 pay raise for the borough mayor, to take effect for whoever is elected to the next full term in October.
The pay bump does not apply to current Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, or to whoever is elected through the special mayoral election currently underway.
Assembly members amended the legislation approved Tuesday to say that the mayor’s salary will be evaluated and may be adjusted at the end of each term in office by the borough assembly. The body removed from the legislation a line that would tie future bumps to the mayor’s salary to inflation.
The ordinance says the mayor’s salary was set at $79,000 in 1990 and increased to $99,000 in 2011. According to the legislation put forth by Navarre, the mayor’s salary would have increased to $135,000 if adjusted for inflation from 1990 to 2011 and to $170,000 if adjusted for inflation from 2011 and 2022.
Joan Corr, of Soldotna, told assembly members during Tuesday’s meeting that she thought tying the salary amount to inflation was “a bit extreme.”
“I just think about the people in the community and the message when you have people in government jobs getting salaries that are way above what an average person gets out in the public,” Corr said. “What kind of message does that send?”
Multiple assembly members noted that the Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor, though elected, also serves in a managerial capacity that requires them to oversee the day-to-day operations of the borough.
Lane Chesley, who represents Homer, said that in addition to the salary being lower than those offered to other city manager and borough manager positions, the borough mayor is also not eligible to participate in the borough’s retirement program.
“If we are going to be in this model, where we’re paying a professional to perform professional duties, then I think we have to have a professional compensation package,” Chesley said.
Assembly Vice President Tyson Cox, who co-sponsored the legislation along with Navarre, agreed that while the mayor is a political position, it is also a professional position.
“I think having an increase up to $130,000 for that wage is not too much,” Cox said. “The difference between what the mayor does and what we do is the mayor’s job is essentially a full-time job. That person needs to be here; this is what they do for their job.”
The legislation, as amended, was approved unanimously.
Tuesday’s meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly can be streamed on the borough’s website at kpb.legistar.com.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.