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Council approves raise for itself, to take effect in 2023

Suffolk City Council has approved a $7,000 raise for the mayor and $8,000 for other members, though it will not take effect until July 1, 2023.

In a 6-2 vote at Wednesday’s meeting, with Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett and Councilman Donald Goldberg voting no, council authorized the mayor’s pay to increase from $18,000 to $25,000, and council members’ pay to go up from $15,000 to $23,000.

The mayor and council members will also be eligible to receive health insurance provided to city employees and would be categorized as full-time workers for eligibility purposes.

Several council members, including Mayor Mike Duman, said the raise is long overdue. Duman said for someone who would otherwise sacrifice pay at a current job, they would not be able to serve as a member of council without an increase in the pay.

“I think this is a long time coming,” Duman said. “The parameters that are set are the ones that are set by state code. If you look at the makeup of council, at least how it’s been since I’ve been on it the last 10 or 11 years, you look up here and the folks that you see for the most part are either retired or own their own businesses. To do this job well, it’s very, very time-consuming.”

Councilman Tim Johnson also said the pay increase was long overdue.

“I honestly think this is way past time — this is for the public — that you pay your council enough to make it worthwhile for us to come up here,” Johnson said. “The problem is, to encourage young people, or other people, to run for these seats, they’re not going to do it. We’ve got to give them some incentive to do it. It’s not that much money. We only meet twice a month. And I don’t know about you … but I meet about 14 times a month, it seems like. It’s not the money. None of us do this for the money, but we have to compensate people to run for this job when we’re going to get them to run for this job.”

Bennett said he didn’t feel a raise was necessary since he said he wasn’t on council for the money.

“I’m not willing to go forward as far as asking for a raise,” Bennett said, “because I’m not here about the money. It’s about serving the people. So I am satisfied with, (as) I call it, a stipend that is given to council.”

Goldberg asked if the increase in salary would mean an increase in meetings. City Attorney William Hutchings said it wouldn’t unless council chose to amend its meeting schedule.