ORANGE PARK – Council members elected after May 2020 will get their first pay raise since 1999.
Orange Park Town Council approved a motion Tuesday that would raise salaries to $6,500 per year, a raise of more than 50 percent. The last salary increase was in 1999 which saw council members’ salaries upped to $3,000 – the same salary council members make currently.
“I want to make this clear,” Mayor Gary Meeks said, “we’re not voting ourselves a raise. Nobody on this council will get a raise.”
According to Meeks, this raise is to help cover the costs of running a campaign to be on the council. Meeks said it cost him $8000 to run and an entire year’s salary on the council doesn’t cover that. He also said that he wishes campaigns didn’t have to cost that much, but between signs, advertising and more, the costs have sadly risen to be that extraordinary.
He followed that up by explaining that this salary raise has been a long time coming, with previous councils attempting to do it in the past.
“Any of you that have been here in previous meetings, this is something that the council looked to do several years ago, but the timing was horrible only because we, at the time, hadn’t been giving anybody raises and the council looked like they were increasing their salaries [said raise would have only affected future council members], so we elected not to do anything about it,” Meeks said.
Meeks also said this raise will help attract citizens to serve on future councils.
“If we can attract people to sit up here and represent you, and you’re going to ask them to put out the kind that they’re going to put out just to be eligible to [run], then I think the time has come that we increase the salary for future council, not the sitting council,” Meeks said.
The council approved the motion with a 4-1 vote, with council member Ron Raymond dissenting. According to Raymond, council members don’t need the raise and the salary they currently receive is already too much.
“I feel that $3,000 a year is more than it should be,” Raymond said. “From where I sit, there isn’t enough money that would attract me to this job because I think it is a volunteer job. I think it’s a citizen’s responsibility to serve. I think it’s a volunteer job and should remain a volunteer job and that’s why I voted no.”
After the vote, Orange Park Town Manager Sarah Campbell clarified the ordinance to explain how this salary increase will play out.
“The way I interpret the charter is this is phased in for any new terms that begin after 2020 so that $18,700 would be divided up over three years of budget so that it can be fully implemented,” she said. “Two council members [get the raise] the first year, one council member the second year and the final two council members in the third year.”