Commission deciding on next mayor’s salary seeks public comment Tuesday

Apr. 29—The Santa Fe Independent Salary Commission is on a good timeline to determine the salary of town’s next mayor, with a deadline Tuesday set by an ordinance.

The fee, appointed April 19, will maintain a gathering Tuesday night with a possibility for members of the public to weigh in on the dialogue. The seven-member group met for the primary time Friday and once more Monday morning.

“I would hate to have this meeting tomorrow and have an empty house,” Commissioner Fabian Trujillo stated on the Monday assembly.

Speakers at Tuesday’s assembly would possibly embrace Mayor Alan Webber, who earns $110,000 yearly. Commissioners stated they wish to have Webber tackle the tasks of the job and what number of hours per week he dedicates to the place, which incorporates public conferences, ceremonial duties and administrative work.

City employees is working to supply the fee with knowledge on the salaries of comparable authorities officers in New Mexico and elsewhere, Human Resources Director Bernadette Salazar stated. She famous, nevertheless, Santa Fe’s governance construction, by which the mayor is full time and in addition a member of the City Council, is a rarity that makes comparisons tough.

Salaries for different New Mexico mayors are comparatively low, Salazar stated, although many do not serve within the function full time.

Commissioner Stefanie Beninato stated it is going to be vital for individuals to supply enter on the mayor’s pay Tuesday night based mostly on the function and never their opinions of Webber or anybody else who would possibly run for the job within the November 2025 election. The new mayor will take workplace in 2026.

“I hope if the public makes comments tomorrow that they’re going to not focus on why they don’t like this mayor but on what they think the salary should be and why, as opposed to personality,” Beninato stated.

The fee’s tight turnaround time was as a consequence of a low variety of candidates, interim City Clerk Geralyn Cardenas stated, including the deadline for functions needed to be prolonged a number of occasions.

The seven commissioners had been chosen by town Ethics and Campaign Review Board from a pool of solely eight. Previously, commissioners had been chosen by the mayor, a apply that raised considerations a few battle of curiosity. The Tuesday deadline to set the salary is to make sure it’s determined earlier than any candidates declare they’re working for mayor.

So far, neither Webber nor anybody else has signaled an intention to run next yr.

At Friday’s assembly, members of the Independent Salary Commission requested metropolis employees if there was any manner they might get extra time to do their work. But they did not appear to seek out any choices.

The salary fee first convened in 2017 after being appointed by then-Mayor Javier Gonzales, who opted to not run for reelection. In May of that yr, the fee determined by a vote of 4-3 to set the next mayor’s salary at $110,000, which went into impact after Webber took workplace in 2018. That salary was not modified by the 2021 fee, Salazar stated.

Many different metropolis leaders earn greater than $110,000 a yr. According to 2023 knowledge, City Manager John Blair had a salary of $172,500 and former City Clerk Kristine Bustos-Mihelcic made about $133,000 on the time of her departure. Former Community Health and Safety Director Kyra Ochoa made $146,000, and the public works director made $145,000 final yr.

Albuquerque has an impartial salary fee chosen by town’s Accountability in Government Committee. The fee voted final yr to extend the next mayor’s pay 10% to about $146,000.

Members of the Santa Fe fee have indicated they may think about the price of residing in Santa Fe and the tasks of the job when deciding the salary.

Beninato stated she is anxious if the salary is simply too excessive, individuals will run simply due to the cash. She additionally urged she would assist a cost-of-living enhance.

Commissioner Bridget Dixson, president and CEO of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, stated she would love the mayor to have the ability to afford to live within the metropolis they symbolize — although somebody who lives outdoors metropolis limits wouldn’t be eligible to run for the workplace.

While she famous Beninato’s concern, “I do think we need to take into consideration the cost of living and how it continues to increase,” Dixson stated, questioning aloud whether or not it will be possible for somebody making the mayor’s salary to afford right this moment’s median residence worth, which she stated is $680,000.

Trujillo stated politicians, particularly within the New Mexico Legislature, are usually “people who are wealthy or people who are retired, because there’s no pay for them.” He would not need that for Santa Fe.

“I would like to see a robust slate of candidates running for mayor in this next election,” he stated.

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