By Lydia Hurley 

During a June 6 meeting, the College Park City Council voted unanimously to raise annual compensation for the mayor and councilmembers. The vote came after a brief public hearing on the matter. 

The mayor’s salary will increase from $10,500 to $15,000, and councilmembers compensation will go from $7,000 to $10,000. The ordinance sets salary for the mayor pro tem salary at $12,500. This marks the first salary increase for the mayor and council since 2014.

Public data from nearby municipalities with similar population sizes and budgets supports increasing these salaries, according to a report filed by Teresa Way-Pezzuti, the city’s director of human resources. Assistant City Manager Bill Gardiner says city staff looked at nine neighboring municipalities in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties before making their recommendations about compensation. Budget, population and land area were some of the factors considered identifying these municipalities as comparable to College Park.

“Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Laurel and Takoma Park were considered comparable to College Park. The compensation for College Park elected officials is pretty much in the middle of these local peers,” Gardiner said in an interview.

Gardiner noted that compensation for mayor and councilmembers has not been increased in almost ten years. Although elected officials serve for reasons other than financial compensation, city staff don’t want low compensation to be a barrier preventing residents from running for office, Gardiner said.

“Someone seeks office mainly to perform a civic duty and to support their community. However, financial compensation was always a lower-ranking criterion for running for office. The Mayor and Councilmembers work many hours, sometimes averaging hours that equal a full-time job conducting city business and political and public engagement,” wrote Mayor Fazlul Kabir in a May 13 blog post.

Mayor pro tem Denise Mitchell (District 4) said she serves the residents of her district without regard to compensation, but suggested that compensation could be a factor for potential councilmembers. “They’re considering things like, ‘If I’m giving up my time, how much will I be compensated for that?’” she said.

Mitchell expressed her gratitude to the council and city staff for introducing a separate compensation increase to the position of mayor pro tem. 

“In addition to supporting the mayor and representing them in their absence, the role of mayor pro tem is an appointed position that is more similar to that of a vice mayor. The compensation should be fitting for the work that is being done,” she added.

City residents were informed of the public hearing in a May 31 email and were invited to pose questions and share concerns about the ordinance.No residents voiced their opposition to the ordinance at the hearing.

Councilmember Stuart Adams (District 3) thanked city staff for drawing up the ordinance and the residents of his district for supporting the salary increase. During the public hearing, Adams noted that these residents “recognize the dedication that it takes to be on council and to be a mayor, and though they understand that we don’t do it for the funding, it does take away time from our families and takes away time from vacation.” 

Kabir underscored that raising salaries is a complex issue and process for city leaders. “Mayor and council should not be the ones responsible for directly raising their salary, even though eventually they’ll need to vote because it’s an ordinance. There’s a change in the city charter. And only the mayor and council can afford to make the change. So in the end, they need to do it, but I think it has to be done through advisory committee recommendation,” he said in an interview, adding, “As an elected official, I don’t think it feels right to raise our own salaries.”

Mayor Kabir did predict, though, that an advisory committee would have also recommended these increases, based on the data from other municipalities that staff used to draft the ordinance.

Assistant City Manager Bill Gardiner noted that the council intends to form a compensation review committee to evaluate possible changes going forward. Designating this committee would be done through a separate resolution.

The salary increases will take effect after the Nov. 5 general election.