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New Park Board Commissioners’ Proposed Pay Raise Comes Under Fire

Not so fast! That’s the essence of the Star Tribune’s editorial aimed at the new slate of Minneapolis Park Board commissioners who ran on reform but now want to more than double their own pay now that they’re in control.

In yet another example of elected officials considering raising their own pay, members of the Minneapolis Park Board have discussed increasing their annual stipend from $12,438 to $30,000 to attract more diverse candidates and reflect the work involved in serving on the nine-member board.

In our view, more than doubling pay in one fell swoop would be excessive. But reasonable increases over time are acceptable when they’re proposed and vetted with public input. Should the board take up a formal pay increase resolution yet this year or in the future, it should propose an amount early enough in budget discussions to allow opportunity for public review.

The Minneapolis Park Board has long been viewed as more of a public service opportunity to give back to the community than a full time job. Elsa Carpenter, whose husband served on the park board for nothing, was so incensed at the over-the-top salary boost that she wrote a letter to the editor lambasting the proposal.

My husband, Walter S. Carpenter, served from 1965 to 1971 as a commissioner and from 1967 to 1971 as president. He received no compensation, stipend or expenses.

In those years, the Park Board hired a nationally acclaimed superintendent after a nationwide search, built 14 park buildings (the first since before World War II), repaved 60 miles of parkways with distinctive brown surfacing, reduced the size of the Park Board from 13 to nine members through a charter amendment, and battled the Corps of Engineers and the Highway Department to stop an intrusion on Minnehaha Falls. Like volunteers on all city boards, churches and charitable organizations, he considered his service to the city the most meaningful volunteer activity of his life.

But not anymore. Today’s park commissioners consider themselves public employees who not only deserve higher wages but big-time benefits, as the paper points out.

In addition to their stipend, parks commissioners are eligible to receive the same health, dental and life insurance benefits as parks employees. The annual value of the health insurance, including premiums paid by board members, is $7,728 for single coverage and $20,328 for a family plan.

We’re not suggesting that commissioners never receive raises. However, should they decide to change or update their job descriptions or increase pay, they should do so in full public view. Taxpayers deserve no less.

Taxpayers deserve no less and park commissioners who truly care about the Minneapolis park system should expect no more.

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