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St. Louis County Council members to get $20,000 pay raise effective with next election

Rita Heard Days, first district chairwoman, listens in to public commentary on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, during a regular meeting of the St. Louis County Council at the St. Louis County government building in Clayton, Mo.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Council members Rita Heard Days and Mark Harder listen to public comment in September 2021. The council voted 6-0 Tuesday to approve pay raises for its members after a county commission recommended a salary increase.

The St. Louis County Council on Tuesday approved doubling members’ salaries from $20,000 to $40,000.

Raises won’t go into effect until after their next election. The council voted 6-0 with both Republicans and Democrats supporting the increase. The chairperson will be paid $50,000.

If reelected, council members Shalonda Webb, Ernie Trakas and Kelli Dunaway would see a pay increase at the beginning of 2025. Mark Harder, Rita Days, Lisa Clancy and Dennis Hancock would see raises two years later. Dunaway was absent from the vote Tuesday.

A county compensation commission recommended the salary increases in May after studying salaries of elected officials across Missouri. Commission members considered various proposals, including a $46,000 annual salary for council members.

The approval comes at a time when the county faces a $40 million deficit.

Trakas said that it was a difficult decision considering the financial state of the county but that it was necessary. He said the salary increases are minimal compared to the county’s overall budget.

“I understand how it appears even though a commission was in fact empaneled and made this recommendation,” Trakas said. “Having said all that, compensation for council members has been woefully deficient for way too long a time, and this bill doesn’t even cure it completely.”

Harder agreed with Trakas and said the full financial impact won’t be seen for years.

The raises follow recent actions to increase salaries elsewhere. St. Louis aldermen saw their salaries double to $72,000 a year with an additional $5,000 in expenses after the city decreased the number of aldermen from 28 to 14. Boone County commissioners make about $100,000 a year, while Jackson County legislators are paid $41,000 a year.

Council Compensation Committee Chairman Tim Fitch, a former council member, said Tuesday after the vote that the commission examined inflation and compared the council's salaries to other those of legislative bodies across the state. He said that the commission only made recommendations and that it was up to the council to decide if it was financially feasible to increase pay.

But the council was under a tight timeline. Tuesday was the last day the council could approve the salary increase, as it had 45 days to vote on salary changes from when the commission presented the proposal. If the council didn’t take action, it would be dead for five years until the county could set up another compensation commission, with raises potentially not going into effect until 2029, Fitch said.

“I kind of see it as them having very little choice about trying to do the council members right in the future, those getting elected in the future,” Fitch said. “It may or may not be those sitting there today.”

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.