JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Making ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough for many. Some people have lost their jobs, and others have taken a pay cut.
And it’s been a hard time for those governing the city of Jacksonville, wading though a pandemic and figuring out ways to conduct open meetings.
Recently, the salary for most City Council members was $49,974. But in October, that number jumped to $52,276 -- an increase of $2,300 that council members approved as part of this year’s budget.
All but two of the 19 council members took the raise. Councilmen Al Ferraro and Matt Carlucci didn’t take it.
Carlucci said it was the right thing to do.
“It’s been a tough year -- 2020 has been a really tough year and to take a pay raise at this moment in time, I just couldn’t do it. Plain and simple,” Carlucci said.
As president of the City Council, Tommy Hazouri is paid more -- $69,702 annually. He took the raise.
“Why not accept it? It’s part of the job,” he told News4Jax.
Hazouri went to say that many times those who do not accept the raise use that as a political statement to further their careers down the line.
It’s been a turbulent year for Mayor Lenny Curry -- with the JEA debacle, the pandemic, the Republican convention and the Lot J debate. The mayor’s taxpayer-funded salary has gone up more than $25,000.
It’s the first time since Curry was elected mayor that he took the raise. By law, the salary increase is automatic, but in the past, the mayor has turned it down. He’s passed up on more than $60,000 by not accepting the pay hike in previous years.
Right now, the mayor’s salary is set at $206,218 annually. That might sound like a lot, but there are several people in city government who make thousands more than he does.
For example, Brian Hughes, the chief administrative officer, is $313,500 annually. Dr. Bradley Elias, of the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, makes $237,156 annually. Jason Gabriel, the city’s lead attorney, makes $229,325 annually.
“It’s really less about the merits than it is about the timing,” explained News4Jax political analyst Rick Mullaney. “Local government and the national government are certainly deserving. Many haven’t had raises for awhile and they work very hard. However, look at 2020. During this pandemic, most Americans fall into one of three categories. Either you’ve had a pay cut, you’ve had a furlough or you’ve been laid off. It’s been a year unlike any other.”
A request for comment from the mayor’s office was not immediately returned Wednesday evening.