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Happy New Fiscal Year!

Many local and state elected officials have reasons to celebrate Oct. 1, the start of the 2022 civil-accounting year, because they’re getting pay increases.

While retirees wait for word on how much their Social Security payments will increase, Volusia County’s constitutional officers will see boosts of approximately 1 percent in their income.

The annual salaries of Clerk of the Court Laura Roth, Property Appraiser Larry Bartlett, Elections Supervisor Lisa Lewis and Tax Collector Will Roberts each will be $161,014 — up from the $159,278 they were receiving in the old fiscal year.

Sheriff Michael Chitwood, meanwhile, is getting an increase from $169,100 to $170,923 per year.

The Florida Legislature sets the salaries and adjusts the pay yearly for these constitutional officers, who are actually state officials elected locally but accountable to the governor and the Legislature, rather than to the county manager and County Council.

The pay amounts are the result of a complex formula that is based primarily upon the population of each of the Sunshine State’s 67 counties. The Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research crunches the numbers and determines what to recommend as compensation for constitutional officers.

In 2018, a supermajority of Florida voters passed Amendment 10, making Volusia County’s sheriff, property appraiser and elections supervisor state officers. Before that change, they were elected department heads within the county administration. The clerk of the court was not and is not a part of the county administrative staff.

With the enactment of Amendment 10, the new elected office of tax collector was also established.

The constitutional officers aren’t the only ones getting raises. Members of the County Council are also more prosperous.

The annual salary of County Chair Jeff Brower is increasing from $56,671 to $57,351. Each of the other six members of the County Council will receive an annual salary of $47,798 — up from 2020-21’s $47,226.

It’s different for the County Council

While the pay of most of the county’s constitutional officers is set by the Florida Legislature, a provision in state law allows charter counties, including Volusia County, to set some salaries differently.

There are 20 home-rule charter counties in Florida; Volusia was the first to claim that status in 1971, following a countywide referendum.

The Legislature’s report on the pay for constitutional officers notes the following: “The statutory salary requirements apply to all designated officers in all counties, except those officials whose salaries are not subject to being set by the Legislature due to the provisions of a county home-rule charter. … The adoption of a charter provides the county’s electors with a mechanism to fundamentally alter the form of county government and the status of constitutional officers. Salaries have been computed for all officers of charter counties and are provided for reference purposes even though the statutorily calculated figures may not be applicable.”

So, the county’s charter trumps the recommendation of the Legislature, which was to pay Volusia County Council members $95,596 a year.

Volusia County’s charter, Section 304, reads: “The salary of a council member shall be 50% of that prescribed by law for the office of county commissioner. The salary for the county chair shall be 60% of that prescribed by law for the office of county commissioner. The salaries shall constitute full compensation for all services and in-county expenses, except that out-of-county expenses, as permitted by law, shall be authorized.”

City leaders get raises, too

At least two cities are upping the pay of their elected officials.

Orange City Mayor Gary Blair’s pay will rise from $13,291 per year to $13,689, while each of the six other members of the Orange City Council will receive $11,418 per year, up from $11,086 for fiscal year 2021.

DeBary voters last year amended their city charter to provide a pay raise for the mayor and the four other City Council members. The pay for Mayor Karen Chasez climbed from $500 to $800 per month, while each of her council colleagues has seen a pay change from $400 to $650 per month.

Not everyone’s getting a raise, though. The Town of Pierson and the City of DeLand both kept their elected officials’ rates the same. 

Members of the Pierson Town Council make a monthly salary of $320, while the mayor makes a monthly salary of $370. Their rates have not seen any increase since 2018, Town Clerk Carmen Spelorzi told The Beacon, but Mayor Samuel G.S. Bennett’s salary increased when his position changed from chairman of the Town Council to mayor.

DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar’s annual salary is $16,302, and members of the DeLand City Commission make an annual salary of $11,601.

As with the County Council, city council and city commission members often say their position is supposed to be a part-time job, but it often morphs into full-time work, with calls — sometimes angry ones — late at night and requests to meet with constituents complaining about their dealings with the government.

For those interested in comparing their income with those of their leaders, information compiled by the Office of Economic and Demographic Research puts Volusia County’s average annual wage at $44,392.

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