Albuquerque city councilors appear to be on track for a major pay raise in 2024.
The citizen commission responsible for setting Albuquerque elected officials’ pay wants councilors to get an 87% hike. That would mean going to $62,843 per year from the current rate of $33,660.
The council president would get an equivalent increase: up to $66,928 from $35,860.
The panel also has voted to increase the mayor’s salary. The position would pay $146,081 up from today’s $132,500.
The Citizens Independent Salary Commission voted on the salary changes during a meeting earlier this month. They are then compiled into a final report the commission is slated to vote on Wednesday, interim City Auditor Marisa Vargas said Friday.
If approved, the report will go to the city clerk for implementation.
According to a draft memo posted to the CISC website Friday, the salaries are based on an “exhaustive” decision-making process.
“The Commission considered a variety of data, including historical compensation received by the Mayor and City Councilors, comparative pay and forms of government among similar cities, the managerial complexity of elected officials’ labor, as well as changes in the cost of living and median household income,” the draft memo from CISC Chair Kent Hickman states.
Salary changes set by the CISC do not apply to incumbents.
The new pay scale takes effect after elections — that means 2024 for the candidates who win the council District 2, 4, 6, and 8 elections this fall, and 2026 for those who prevail in the 2025 election for mayor and the other five council seats.
The draft memo said the commission wanted to ensure “fair and reasonable” pay for the city’s elected officials that accounts for their time and effort and compares to peer cities. The analysis included salary reviews of El Paso, Oklahoma City, Tucson, Arizona, and several other communities.
The commission wanted to establish salaries “likely to attract competent and effective candidates to serve in public office and that enhances the opportunity for every eligible citizen to serve, regardless of their financial circumstance,” the draft memo states.
The committee’s decision-making process also included a series of surveys. That included questioning the current mayor, Tim Keller, the sitting councilors and the public. The questionnaire sought to gauge workload, expectations and if the current salary reflected the job responsibilities and whether it might present an economic barrier for people who want to run for office.
In his survey included with the draft memo, Keller said he worked an average of 70 hours per week. He described the mayor’s job as “appropriately compensated,” but noted that it pays less — in some cases, considerably less — than dozens of other positions in municipal government. Most Albuquerque department directors make $157,518 annually, and other administrator salaries top $170,000.
“For example, why would someone be Mayor if they could be CAO (chief administrative officer), which pays almost double?” he wrote. “Something to consider.”
Not all councilors responded to the survey. The six who did reported that at least 28 hours a week are needed to “adequately” fulfill their responsibilities but that their position needs full-time attention.
Though not universal, the general sentiment in the anonymized results was that the Albuquerque’s current councilor salary might prevent people from running for a seat, since the position is often too demanding to hold another job but does not pay enough to survive on.
The public, meanwhile, was fairly split on what to do about elected official pay.
Among 182 survey respondents, 37% answered that the City Council salary should remain $33,660, but 36% thought councilors should make less and 26% said they should earn more.
When it comes to the mayor, 48% said the position should earn less, 34% thought it was good as it is now, and 18% felt the job deserved a higher salary.