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Dade City to dust off a dated charter

By GINA PACE
Published January 27, 2007


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DADE CITY - Dade City is so charming in the eyes of many visitors because its old-fashioned downtown is from another time.

So are the salaries of city commissioners.

The last time they got a raise, Gerald R. Ford was president. Apple was a brand-new computer company.

The rate of $100 a month for commissioners and $150 for the mayor was locked into the city's charter, last revised in 1976. To change it, commissioners would have to put it to voters, something they have been reluctant to do, said City Clerk James Class, who has worked for the city for nearly 20 years.

The charter has a few other dated items, said City Attorney Karla Owens. There's still a provision from 1929 allowing for the creation of a city board of health - even though there is now a state health department in every Florida county.

"There is stuff in there, that is like, you've got to be kidding me," Owens said. "Why is it in the charter?"

A special committee started reviewing the charter in January and will be taking it apart piece-by-piece in meetings through April. The group will make recommendations to the city commissioners, who will have public hearing on the new charter before it goes to voters.

On charter changes that commissioners believe might be particularly contentious - such as the possible establishment of single-member districts - voters would get a chance to approve them individually.

At Thursday's meeting, the group tackled commissioners' salaries. The group decided that they would recommend the commission pass an ordinance regarding their salary and tie it in some way to the Consumer Price Index, a government indicator that measures how prices in goods and services change over time. According to the consumer price index, $100 in 1976 would be the equivalent of $354.31 in 2006.

Marilyn Crotty, the director of the Florida Institute of Government at the University of Central Florida, was brought on to help the committee craft a new charter. She said Tuesday that very low salaries can price a candidate out of running, since commissioners could incur costs such as hiring a baby sitter during meetings.

The Zephyrhills City Council voted this week to give themselves a $100-a-month raise, bringing their salary to $500 a month.

Bill Dennis, who served as a Dade City commissioner from 1982 to 1990 and again from 1996 to 2006 and is on the charter review committee, said that he thinks commissioners should earn more, he just doesn't know how much.

"It is not a permanent, primary job," Dennis said Friday. "No one expects to make a living being on the City Commission."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Gina Pace can be reached at 352 521-6518 or gpace@sptimes.com

[Last modified January 26, 2007, 21:42:37]


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