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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Jun. 16, 2020 3 months ago

No Volusia charter amendments to be placed in 2020 ballot

The motion to increase the council's salary, change its name and the date for its organizational meeting failed 4-3.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

The Volusia County Council won't be getting a new name, or a pay raise, anytime soon, since the vote to place these charter amendments on the 2020 ballot failed with a 4-3 vote at the council's meeting on Tuesday, June 16. 

If the motion to place of the ballot had passed, the charter amendments would have sought to equalize the council members' salary to what is authorized by law, rather than capping it at 50% for the council members and 60% for the chair. According to Florida Statute, the base salary for a council member in Volusia (based on population) is $19,500. If it had been placed on the ballot, the salary adjustments would not have taken effect until 2023, per the motion.

The charter amendment would have also given voters the chance to change the council's name to the "Volusia County Board of County Commissioners." Additionally, a third amendment sought to change the date for the council's organizational meeting.

Though these were a follow-up to the council's discussion at its workshop on Jan. 9, the majority of the council members felt that this was not the time to add a charter amendment on the ballot. Only Council Chair Ed Kelley and Council members Fred Lowry and Barb Girtman voted in favor. 

Councilman Ben Johnson said that while he believes there is a salary issue for the council, the timing to amend that is "terrible." He added that the salary should be adjusted when none of the incumbents are on the board, and that placing it on the ballot could harm ECHO and Volusia Forever.

"I think it just sets at the moment a bad, bad precedent that we're looking for a raise here when we really need to look at how much we may have to cut our budget," Johnson said.

Councilwoman Heather Post said that while eventually raising the salary could help to draw in a wider range of candidates that otherwise couldn't afford to run, this is the wrong time to adjust it. She also said that the council should have a future discussion on capping the amount of campaign dollars a candidate is able to pull together. 

"I think that would be an excellent way, if that is in fact the endgame of what we're looking to accomplish in allowing the typical boots on the ground citizen in Volusia County to take part in this form of government," Post said.

The average citizen, rather than just retirees, should be able run, said Girtman. The county's pay isn't comparable to other counties, and while she said this may not be the time to raise the salaries, it was time to have the conversations. Raising the salary could help the County Council become more inclusive and representative of the people they serve, Girtman said.


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