After questioning whether Omaha pays its mayor enough and proposing a double-digit raise, the City Council voted Tuesday to give the next person elected mayor the city’s typical 3% annual raise.
That means the mayor in 2022, instead of getting a big pay bump, will earn $110,746 annually, which is less than Mayor Jim Suttle made in the first part of 2013, when he was paid $113,000 annually.
It will take until 2023 for the mayor to make more, $114,068 a year. The job will pay $124,645 in 2026, under the raises approved Tuesday.
Mayor Jean Stothert’s current term runs through mid-2021. The raises would benefit her only if she seeks and wins a third term. Stothert hasn’t formally announced a reelection bid, though backers are raising money in case she runs.
Much of the mayoral pay gap stems from a decision the council made in 2013, at Mayor-elect Stothert’s request, while she was still on the council. She asked council members to cut her mayoral pay by $11,000, to $102,000 yearly, and the council did.
A council study found that Omaha’s mayor makes about 18% less than the median pay of mayors of similarly sized cities that, like Omaha, have a strong-mayor form of government.
The City Charter requires council members to set the salaries for council members and the mayor for after the next election.
That’s why it took into Stothert’s second term for her to receive her first raise as mayor, 3% this year, to $104,358.
The council on Tuesday voted 4-3 to approve council President Chris Jerram’s original proposal for 3% raises for the mayor and council members. The council in 2015 approved 3% annual raises from 2019 to 2022.
On Tuesday, the council extended those raises to the 2023-2026 period.
Council members will see their pay climb from $38,126 in 2019 to $40,459 in 2022. The pay will then rise from $41,673 in 2023 to $45,537 in 2026.
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Two competing mayoral pay proposals fell short. Both aimed to pay the mayor $122,000 in 2022 and give annual raises after that of either 3% or a percentage tied to the Consumer Price Index.
Council members Aimee Melton and Brinker Harding led the charge to pay the mayor more in 2022, but their effort to tie future raises to the index doomed their amendment. It failed 5-2.
Councilman Ben Gray tried to forge a compromise by boosting the mayor’s pay to $122,000 in 2022, then proposing set annual percentage increases after that.
“I do recognize that the mayor doesn’t make what the others make,” Gray told The World-Herald. “I’m just more comfortable with the 3%.”
His proposal also failed 4-3. Council member Pete Festersen said he was uncomfortable voting for any raise larger than 3%. Under both failed proposals, the mayor’s salary would have jumped by more than 10% from 2021 to 2022.
Council member Rich Pahls said the mayor deserved more than $122,000 in 2022, but he didn’t offer a proposal.
So the council came back to Jerram’s 3% proposal and approved it for both the mayor and council. Pahls, Melton and Harding voted “no” on the mayor and council pay proposals.
Stothert signed the ordinances late Tuesday afternoon, spokeswoman Carrie Murphy said.
The mayor had said she would support the raises as long as they were reasonable.