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Port Richey council votes to put its pay hike on ballot

Members have to vote again on the $180-a-month increase for it to appear on the April 10 ballot.

By MATTHEW WAITE

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 9, 2001


PORT RICHEY -- To Joe Menicola, a referendum on a City Council pay raise is like a report card for the elected members of Port Richey government.

"This will be a good indication if the public is satisfied," said Menicola, one of two council members not facing re-election in April.

The council, during a special meeting Thursday afternoon, gave first-round approval on a 4-1 vote to an ordinance that puts a raise on the April 10 ballot.

The council would have to vote on the ordinance again, most likely on Feb. 27, for it to appear on the ballot.

The proposed raise would double the pay a council member brings home. The money for the raise was approved in the city's 2000-2001 budget.

Currently, and for the past 18 years, a council member took home $180 a month before taxes. The pay increase would mean a paycheck of $360 a month before Uncle Sam takes a bite.

"I think after 18 years, it's about time the council gets a raise," said Menicola, who said he got the special meeting called to get the referendum on the ballot.

The lone dissenting vote was Mayor Eloise Taylor. Taylor, who would have to face voters in April to keep her mayor's job, said that it didn't matter to her how much she was paid.

"For me, whether or not it's $180 or $360, it really just doesn't make much difference," she said.

Pat Guttman, who has served on the council for 11 years and isn't up for election in April, said, "I don't think anyone on council is serving because of the monetary issue."

The referendum would add to an already busy April ballot. Because of turnover on the council, voters will pick two council members and a mayor this election, whereas the typical ballot would have had the mayor and one council seat.

What could give the pay raise a chance with voters is that the budget passed in August didn't increase taxes, will spend $1-million more than the last budget on local projects, and more than a quarter of the $4.06-million budget is paid for by federal and state government grants.

Only one resident attended the meeting, and she supported the raise.

"It's about time," Mary Ann Robertson said. "One hundred and eighty bucks isn't much. Three hundred and sixty bucks a month isn't much more."

- Staff writer Matthew Waite can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is waite@sptimes.com.

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