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Gainesville Commissioners Decide That Doubling Their Salary Maybe Isn't Such A Good Idea After All

Nora O'NeillStaff writer

Gainesville commissioners voted 5-2 on Thursday to keep their pay what it currently is, a move that comes four months after the previous body voted to nearly double their salaries.

The ordinance, which passed in December, would have gone into effect this October, increasing commissioners’ salaries from $37,000 to $71,000. The mayor’s salary would've increased from $47,000 to $89,000.

In total, the change would've had a $400,000 annual impact on the city.

Regardless of the vote, commissioners saw a slight increase to about $40,000 prior to the larger raise taking effect.

In February, city officials were grilled by lawmakers about Gainesville's financial situation and its plan to resolve $1.7 billion in debt during a Florida Joint Legislative Auditing Committee meeting − a group of House and Senate members for both major political parties. City officials a few days later began making suggestions for cuts, including jobs and initiatives. The city currently has a hiring freeze for non-essential positions.

Last week, the commission revealed a plan to reduce its debt by $315 million.

Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut made the motion to reverse the salary increase in March, eventually instructing the city attorney to draft a new ordinance that would definitively reverse the December decision. That ordinance was quickly passed Thursday evening with its second needed vote.

There was no discussion from the public or commissioners.

Commissioners Reina Saco and Casey Willits voted against the pay cut, arguing in the past that it is a full-time job that warrants full-time pay.

Willits said that he reduced his full-time job at UF to part-time due to the time commitment of being a commissioner. Chestnut said the elected job was historically intended to be a part-time position, adding that people can decide how invested they want to be.

"If I'm going to be paid for 20 hours, I will stop working on the 20th hour and you will be down a commissioner," Saco said in March.

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