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Grand Forks City Council committee recommends $14,100 salary for members

A Grand Forks City Council committee recommended Monday that council members receive a salary of $14,100, a raise of $8,900.

Months ago Council President Hal Gershman brought up the idea of raising council members' current salary of $5,200, which is among the lowest in the state compared to other city councils and has not been adjusted since 2000.

"I am very proud of the former (Grand Forks) City Councils and of this City Council. Nobody ever mentioned that we need more pay, but I know it's fair," Gershman said Monday.

His salary increase recommendation was to set the new salary at $12,000 to be reviewed and adjusted each year.

"I don't think anything less than 12 is fair," said Gershman, who is leaving the Council in June after the end of his term.

Fargo city government representatives receive $22,828 annually, Bismarck's get $12,375 and Minot's get $7,140, according to the city staff report.

In addition to keeping up with other cities' salaries, council members Bret Weber and Dana Sande said the higher salary may attract more people to run for City Council, which would benefit the city by providing a better variety of perspectives.

Setting salaries

At Monday's meeting of the Finance/Development Committee, council members disagreed on the amount the salary should be set at, saying they wanted to make the most logical choice so that the issue would not have to be discussed again and could just be set by city staff with the employees' salaries each year.

"I'm not comfortable doubling the pay," council member Terry Bjerke said. "I won't accept more than $8,000."

Council member Doug Christensen asked about the logic behind the $12,000 recommendation.

Gershman said he chose that amount because it is $1,000 per month, and, based on his time and work on the Council, "I know the work that is done, I know the sacrifices that are made, and fair is fair."

The Grand Forks County Commission has a similar workload and number of constituents as the City Council, and its members get paid $17,484 annually plus other benefits, Sande said.

Based on that, Christensen suggested an $18,000 salary for the City Council.

After a couple of other numbers and calculations were suggested, City Administrator Todd Feland suggested the Council average the salaries of Fargo, Bismarck and Minot and use that number, because when deciding city employees' salaries, the city uses a similar process of averaging the salaries of similar positions.

The average came to $14,100, which was the Finance/Development Committee's recommendation to the full City Council, which will make the final decision.