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Mark Barker

“When a fellow says it hain’t the money but the principle o’ the thing, it’s th’ money… .”  – Hoss Sense and Nonsense, 1926

Volusia County is different from many Florida counties in that our charter overrides the state mandate that has the legislature set salaries for elected county officials.

In Volusia, our charter states:

“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.”

Without that limitation, the legislative recommendation for Volusia County Council members would have gifted them an obscene $95,596 a year.

At present, the chair commands $57,351 — while each of the district council members receives an ample annual salary of $47,798 — essentially for attending two meetings a month and schlepping around to a slate of ceremonial time-wasters that never seem to improve our quality of life or lower our already exorbitant tax rate.

If $48K doesn’t cover incidentals, I don’t know what will.

During a 2020 workshop, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from our elected officials about how the position is far from a part-time gig, complaints about the cost of gas, and the imposition on their time that comes with fielding the piddling problems of their constituents.

With many asset-limited and income-constrained Volusia County families struggling to find affordable housing, our elected elite had the unmitigated gall to publicly wallow in their own egotistic angst over how terribly expensive shameless self-promotion has become for politicians.

Ultimately, it didn’t go anywhere — but it was fun to watch.

Last year, the Palm Coast City Council voted itself a 151-percent increase for council members and a hefty 163-percent bump for the mayor, and added health benefits.

Last week, the Daytona Beach City Commission had the uncomfortable discussion about whether to increase their $23,650 annual stipend — and the $41,059 the mayor receives — with the majority agreeing that, after 17 years, it is time for an upward adjustment.

Perhaps it is.

For the record, according to United States Census Bureau statistics (2021 dollars), Volusia County’s per capita income is $32,231 — with 13.8 percent of the population living in poverty.

Perhaps our “powers that be” have finally gotten a small taste of what financially strapped Volusia County families deal with every day. For those families, the burden isn’t attending stilted meetings, grip-n-grins, gilded soirees, Tallahassee hot air generators or political hobnobs, but the real and ongoing struggle of keeping a roof over their children’s heads and putting food on the table.

It is time We, The Little People changed the way in which our local county and municipal elected officials are compensated.

Elective service is a demanding and often thankless task that invites constant criticism from blowhards like me; yet each election cycle, the same perennial politicians fight tooth-and-nail to seek and retain seats on the dais of power.

Public service is a privilege that requires sacrifice, giving back and devoting oneself to a cause greater than our own self-interests, while living up to the sacred trust that says those we elect will have our collective best interests at heart.

The real reward is the knowledge that each day in office they have the opportunity and responsibility to make their community, county or state a better place for everyone.

Perhaps, in the true spirit of public service, we simply make our elected officials whole. We reimburse them for all out-of-pocket expenses, mileage and approved travel, with a reasonable cap and regular audits to prevent abuse.

In my view, that is a fair, equitable, and across-the-board solution that eliminates these recurring compensation arguments— and the inevitable hurt feelings on both sides of the dais — so that the only expenditure our elected representatives have is their time and talents in service to their constituents.

— Barker writes a blog, usually about local government, at A retired police chief, Barker says he lives as a semi-recluse in an arrogantly shabby home in coastal Central Florida, with his wife and two dogs. This is excerpted from his blog, lightly edited (he swears a lot) and reprinted with his permission.



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