This March 2020 photo shows City Hall. The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly voted Monday to increase pay for elected officials. It’s the first raise for the body in over 25 years. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

This March 2020 photo shows City Hall. The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly voted Monday to increase pay for elected officials. It’s the first raise for the body in over 25 years. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

Assembly members vote to increase pay for elected officials

Increase marks the first pay raise since 1994

Soon service to the City and Borough of Juneau will offer better pay.

On Monday, city officials approved a raise for themselves, increasing the pay for Juneau’s elected officials for the first time since 1994. Beginning Jan. 1, 2025, assembly members will experience an additional pay bump.

Mayor Beth Weldon and Assembly members Christine Woll and Loren Jones voted against the measure, citing an objection to the baked-in escalation component of the pay plan.

Beginning Jan. 1, Juneau’s mayor will receive $3,500 a month and assembly members $750 a month. In addition, the city will pay members of the planning commission and hospital board $225 a month. As of Jan. 1, 2025, compensation for assembly members will increase to $1,000 a month.

Currently, the mayor earns $2,500 a month, and assembly members receive $500 per month. Planning commission members earn $150 a month. Hospital board members are currently volunteers.

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Based on the city’s charter, elected officials are required to set the pay rates for city offices, leading to a potentially awkward situation. However, city officials note that departing assembly members have mentioned that assembly compensation is insufficient given the significant investment of members’ time.

“By increasing pay, we open this up to more people,” assembly member Wade Bryson said at the June 3 meeting where members of the Committee of the Whole previously discussed the pay plan. “You should be able to serve on the assembly without having to be retired or a business owner or other means of support.”

Bryson continued his support at Monday’s assembly meeting, suggesting the auto-escalation feature to help future assemblies address the pay issue.

“For 27 years, some of us have been too reserved to make a change. So while we are here and resetting the pay to an appropriate amount, we are taking an extra step in removing some of the concerns that previous assemblies have had,” Bryson said of the automatic escalator.

Bryson estimates that assembly members spend between 40 and 60 hours a month on city-related business and that the time commitment can deter people from seeking office.

Assembly members Greg Smith and Alicia Hughes-Skadijs both said their thinking on the matter had evolved.

“It’s awkward and difficult. I want to maintain trust with the public,” Smith said. “I hope this change will make it easier for someone who cares but is not wealthy in time or money to serve without it being a major sacrifice for their life or their family. It’s better to do hard all at once and not force another assembly to do a hard thing.”

Added Hughes-Skandijs: “The optics of this are never good. But, there’s a long list of members who have raised the point on the way out the door. I’ll be supporting this.”

Paul Kelly, who is a candidate for the assembly, attended the meeting. During a break, he told the Empire that he is not seeking the office based on the pay schedule. But, he said that members put in a lot of time and that the pay increase could help create more age diversity on the assembly.

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Inflation eats away at pay

Before the pandemic caused the assembly to shift focus last spring, CBJ finance director Jeff Rogers calculated an inflation-adjusted pay rate, using the 1994 pay scale as a base and adjusting it to 2019 dollars.

According to a memo Rogers shared, payments to elected officials have not kept pace with inflation.

“The effective inflation rate over that period was 69.4%,” the memo read.

He calculated that if held constant with inflation, payments to assembly members would have been $847 per month in 2019. Accordingly, the mayor would have earned $4,235 each month and members of the Planning Commission $254.

Pay around the state

It’s difficult to compare pay for elected officials across the state because different municipalities use various configurations for governance and have different compensation strategies.

For example, the City of Ketchikan and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough have separate governments, while Juneau’s elected officials oversee both the city and the borough.

According to the city’s code, Ketchikan’s city council members receive $300 a meeting and the mayor $330 for each meeting, and $187 for each special meeting. The city’s 2021 budget shows $11,670 allocated for the mayor’s salary and $10,200 annually for council members.

According to the borough’s code, the mayor of Ketchikan Gateway Borough receives $500 a month, and assembly members $150.

Sitka’s mayor is paid $500 a month and Assembly members $300, based on an ordinance passed in 2002.

By comparison, the mayor of Fairbanks receives $86,500 according to that city’s budget, and council members are paid $500 a month according to Teal Soden, communications director with the Fairbanks’ mayor’s office.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire. Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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