LARGO – The method of determining the salaries of Largo’s mayor and commissioners will be at the forefront of issues the Largo Charter Review Committee will consider during what is likely to be their final meeting Feb. 25.
Salaries for elected officials was the sole issue discussed during the committee’s meeting Jan. 28, held to garner public input into a process that began in April.
“I’m concerned with possibly future temptations to pay too much attention to the city’s fluctuating cash levels,” said Lindsey Funair, of Largo. “I believe it would benefit our city’s long-term sustainability to bring the current and ongoing state of citizens’ micro-economies in a more visible role in our decision-making process.”
She suggested basing the salaries on Largo’s estimated median household income, averaged over five years – 50 percent of that average for commissioners and 60 percent for the mayor. Currently, the mayor is paid $19,688 per year and commissioners paid $13,125.
Potential term limits was the other major issue brought up when the committee solicited opinions from the Largo commissioners Jan. 14. Currently, the city has no limits on how long its commissioners can serve. Commissioner Jaime Robinson brought up the issue during that workshop.
“It’s valuable to have someone that’s been here for a long time and can help people coming in, but at the same time, there has to be something said for new ideas coming in on a somewhat regular basis,” he said. “Incumbency does promote bureaucracy.”
Mayor Pat Gerard said the lack of term limits allowed the residents to decide if they were in favor of their current leaders, “rather than impose arbitrary limits on terms.”
Commissioner Curtis Holmes agreed.
“You have just made the affirmation that voters are lazy,” he told Robinson.
Only a few other residents spoke at the hearing, mostly thanking the committee for their hard work.
“We’re kind of disappointed that we didn’t have more people come from the public tonight,” committee member Sue Porter said.
The charter was last reviewed five years ago; prior to that, it had been about 30 years since anyone had reviewed the document that outlines the parameters of Largo’s government. This time around, the process was “time-consuming but very smooth,” said committee member Pat Edmond.
“It’s like cleaning out our closet,” committee chair Gay Gentry explained to the public.
The committee reviewed the charter during public hearings on a monthly basis, section by section. The amendments members suggested to the commissioners thus far include mostly clarifications.
“There was a lot of confusing language. And we eliminated a lot of extraneous words that really weren’t necessary,” Edmond said.
The committee did initially address the section in the charter concerning salaries, deleting a line that establishes salaries at $300 per month for the mayor and $200 for commissioners, keeping language that allows compensation to be established by ordinance. The charter also states that the salaries should not increase more than 10 percent annually; this language remains under the committee’s recommendations.
Porter said she had no idea how involved and complex some of the issues were.
“It’s going to be fun to see how it all comes out and what actually makes it to the ballot,” she said.
The committee will meet one last time to discuss their final recommendations Tuesday, Feb. 25, 6 p.m., at Largo City Hall, 201 Highland Ave. The charter review committee will have to decide what it will recommend to commissioners, who will than select changes for Largo residents to vote on in the November election.
Written comments can still be emailed to City Clerk Diane Bruner at firstname.lastname@example.org. To view a copy of the current charter and the committee’s recommendations, visit bit.ly/MggqkZ.