In order to bring Meridian City Council salaries in line with other cities in the Treasure Valley, a citizen committee recommended that council increase each member’s salary by $5,000 over the next two years.
On July 9 council took that recommendation, increasing members’ salaries from $10,000 to $13,500 next year and $15,000 the year after. Josh Evarts, the member of the citizen committee who made the recommendation, said the increase will help compensate council members for their time and encourage candidates to run.
“We felt our goal was to target something a little more in line with the market and other cities and the additional workload you guys are taking on,” Evarts said at the July 9 work session.
Meridian City Council is one of two councils in the valley that has regular meetings more than twice a month. Earlier this year council approved an ordinance adding work sessions to their agenda starting at 4:30 p.m. every Tuesday — on top of the weekly 6 p.m. meeting spent largely on land-use matters.
Over the last 20 years Meridian City Council has increased its salaries four times. Members made $6,000 in 2000 and now make $10,000. In 2018 city council members in Boise, Star, Eagle, Nampa and Garden State made more than Meridian council members, making Meridian one of the lowest paid councils in the Treasure Valley. Council salaries range from $24,913 in Boise and $9,000 in Kuna.
Meridian City Councilman Ty Palmer was the only member to vote against the raise.
“I do believe the position warrants higher compensation than it presently has … to be able to attract younger people like myself,” Palmer said at the July 9 work session meeting. “...Still, as a public service position, it still should be lower than the position really deserves. A 35% increase followed by another $1,500 I think is a little steep.”
The change, along with a $3,676 increase to the mayor’s salary over two years, will be brought forward as an ordinance along with a public hearing later this year. The change would bring the mayor’s salary to $94,632.
Meridian City Council compensation was originally addressed at the June 25 work session meeting. Council members told Evarts to come back with the recommendation that addressed all of the committees’ concerns, rather than a recommendation that the committee thought council would approve.
“The spirit in the room was, ‘Don’t aim high. Don’t make the recommendation too big because it’s going to be ugly,’” Evarts said, referring to the morale of the citizen committee.
At the June 25 work session, City Council Vice President Luke Cavener showed support for approving a higher salary for council.
“It’s not about the six of us, it’s about the people who will serve in these seats 10 years from now, 20 years from now,” he said.
Councilman Treg Bernt agreed, expressing concerns about this year’s election.
“We’re about ready to have an election in November,” he said. “There are potentially going to be three open seats in this body and only three people have publicly said they’re going to run for city council. To me, that’s scary.”
Palmer and Councilwoman Genesis Milam both told the Meridian Press they weren’t planning to run for reelection so they could spend more time with their families. Councilwoman Anne Little Roberts is running for mayor.
As of Tuesday, three people had announced candidacy for city council: Meridian Planning and Zoning Commissioner Jessica Perreault, former City Councilman Brad Hoaglun and managing director for Capital One’s Capital Markets Department Elizabeth “Liz” Strader.
At the June 25 work session Bernt also expressed concerns council’s low compensation was keeping a wider variety of people from running.
“The problem we’re having is only a certain type of person can run for city council,” Bernt said. “You have to make a certain amount of money; you have to have a certain type of job. That bothers me.”