SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Voters in Sioux Falls don’t get to decide the mayor’s salary every year but in April, they will get to decide if the position gets a $35,000 raise.
The city’s charter set the mayor’s salary at $75,000 in 1995 which would be adjusted for appropriate inflation. The inflation adjustments are why current Mayor Paul TenHaken makes about $130,000 a year.
The section of the charter on mayor and council salaries reads: (f) Salary of mayor and council members. The mayor’s salary having been established in the amount of $75,000 by this provision in 1995, each other council member shall receive an annual salary in the amount of fifteen (15) percent of the mayor’s salary. The mayor’s salary shall automatically be adjusted annually for inflation or deflation with each other council persons salary thereafter adjusted to be equal to fifteen (15) percent of the mayor’s new adjusted salary. No meeting fees shall be paid to the mayor nor city council members.
But, on Tuesday night, the council agreed a $35,000 to raise the salary to about $165,000.
“In order to do that the charter needs to be amended by a public vote,” city clerk Tom Greco said of the proposed salary increase.
A proposed change in the city charter to allow for a $35,000 increase would be part of the April 12 election. So while the council agreed to raise, the public has the final say. If it’s approved the $165,000 salary would start in 2022.
The council agreed to the salary increase after council members Marshall Selberg and Greg Neitzert had originally proposed an increase of about $65,000 to $195,000. Council member Janet Brekke proposed $165,000 after she said at $195,000, the Sioux Falls Mayor would be making more money than the mayors of Minneapolis, St. Paul and Omaha.
“Again, it’s my belief the compensation for the the position of mayor of this city is far below what it needs to be and it has been for years,” Selberg said in the Dec. 21 council meeting, a video of which is posted on the city website.
Selberg said it is important to attract quality individuals to the position given the duties required. Also, there is an election for mayor in April which should attract many voters who can weigh in on the salary increase, Selberg said.
It’s also possible more candidates can enter the mayor’s race after the council decides to move ahead with a public vote on the salary increase, Selberg said.
In an email response to KELOLAND News questions, Neitzert said the mayor functions much like a CEO. The position is full time.
During the meeting, Selberg said the pay in the private sector must also be considered when reviewing the mayor’s salary.
Selberg said in Dec. 21 email to KELOLAND News that “every city department head that is appointed by, and answers to the mayor, makes a higher wage (than the mayor.)”
The city of Sioux Falls has a home rule form of city government, according to the South Dakota Municipal League. It was established in 1995.
The mayor has executive and administrative power which often referred to as a strong mayor form of government.
“Essentially with a strong Mayor they are running day to day operations of city government, they hold more power in the executive and the legislative side has little day to day executive authority,” Neitzert said in his email. “And the Mayor has supervisory duties and powers beyond ceremonial.”
Sioux Falls pay compare to others
At $130,000 the Sioux Falls Mayor makes more than Gov. Kristi Noem who makes $118,728.04 a year. The state will increase the governor’s salary to $130,000 in 2023.
The mayor also makes more than the South Dakota Attorney General. The position is scheduled to make $125,000 on July 1, 2023.
Recently, the city reached the $1 billion value in building permits and said that was comparable to Omaha and Boise, Idaho.
The population of Boise was about 235,000 in April 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The mayor makes $145,000.
The Boise city government is mayor-council strong, like in Sioux Falls. “The Mayor works full-time, managing the day-to-day operations of the city and providing leadership and policy direction to the City Council,” according to the Boise city website.
The city’s 2021 budget was $448.5 million. The city has about 2,000 employees.
Selberg said Sioux Falls has more than 1,300 employees.
TenHaken also make slightly more than the $129,000 made by St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter who serves in a larger city with a larger budget but has a role similar to the Sioux Falls Mayor. The 2020 population of St. Paul is 311,000, according to the Census Bureau.
The St. Paul Mayor “shall control and direct the administration of the city’s affairs,” according to its city code. The mayor also “shall direct and supervise the administration of all departments, offices and agencies of the city.”
The Sioux Falls General Fund sources of funding for 2021 totaled $185.6 million while the city of St. Paul’s general fund sources of funding for 2021 totaled $313.4 million.
The city of St. Paul has 3,000 employees.
A city with a population similar to Sioux Falls, Grand Rapids, Michigan, is scheduled to pay the mayor $52,000 in 2022.
The city has a city manager to oversee city operations on day-to-day basis.