Vote to quadruple Boca council salaries passes by close margin

Council Members (from left): Councilman Robert Weinroth, CRA Chairman Scott Singer, Mayor Susan Haynie, Deputy Mayor Michael Mullaugh, Councilman Jeremy Rodgers (Contributed)

Council Members (from left): Councilman Robert Weinroth, CRA Chairman Scott Singer, Mayor Susan Haynie, Deputy Mayor Michael Mullaugh, Councilman Jeremy Rodgers (Contributed)

BOCA RATON — About 80 votes made the difference in a decision to quadruple the salaries of Boca Raton city leaders.

While the official results aren’t yet in, the salary hikes appear to have passed.

The referendum was one of two on the ballot in Boca Raton during the primary election Tuesday. It proposed quadrupling the current base salaries for the positions of mayor and city council member, a notion twice shot down by voters in the past.

“Because it has failed so often in the past, many people were afraid of it,” Councilman Mike Mullaugh, who proposed the ordinance, said Wednesday. “I decided I can take it on because I’m term-limited anyway.”

The salary amount was included in the ballot question, rather than just asking voters whether salaries should be quadrupled.

“I think that played a role in it’s success this time,” Mullaugh said.

About 50.43 percent of votes cast were in favor of the salary increase, which is about 0.86 percent more than those who voted against it. The difference isn’t small enough to prompt a recount, according to the county’s Supervisor of Elections.

The current base salary for mayor is $9,200. The proposed $38,000 salary is 40 percent of the base salary earned by Palm Beach County commissioners.

In salary and car allowance, Boca Raton council members, in a city of about 89,000, make $12,600 a year, according to Palm Beach Post database compiled in 2015. City commissioners in West Palm Beach, with a population of about 102,000, make $36,000 per year in salary and car allowance.

“I suspect nobody wants a 30-hour-per-week job that pays only $600 a month,” he said. “I think it will make it possible for people who are not in the position to make the financial sacrifice to actually run for council.”

The last city council salary increase was 1984. If approved, the increase will take effect in October.

Another referendum, which will require a special election to fill any city council vacancies, also passed, based on unofficial elections results.

Currently, if a council member’s position becomes open mid-term, the remaining council members appoint someone to the position, which lasts until next regular city election.

If the position of mayor becomes open, the deputy mayor would serve in that role until the next election.