SEBRING - Most City Council members favored giving City Administrator Scott Noethlich a raise because of the good work he's done and his salary is below other city administrators in a comparison of 10 other Florida cities, they said at Tuesday's meeting.
But Councilman John Clark, while saying Noethlich has done a good job, questioned the raise in part because Sebring has an assistant city administrator, while most of the other cities in the comparison don't have that position.
While splitting 4-1 on the raise for Noethlich, the council unanimously favored giving 15 percent raises to code enforcement officers.
The majority of the council favored Council President Andrew Fell's recommendation to raise Noethlich's pay from $72,101 (not including a smaller raise earlier this year) to $90,126.
Fells said in his recommendation that Noethlich's salary is 38 percent below the average of the salaries of top city administrators in 10 other surveyed cities.
The change would also create a "more reasonable monetary difference between the city administrator position and the assistant city administrator position," Fells noted.
But Clark said that while he's not opposed to having both a city administrator and an assistant city administrator, he questions paying more for both positions than the salary earned by city managers in the other cities that don't have assistant managers.
Clark said he believes the intent in 2008 was to create an assistant city administrator position on a temporary basis so that the current assistant city administrator Bob Hoffman, who was city administrator before Noethlich, could groom Noethlich as a successor.
But after Noethlich became city administrator, the assistant city administrator position didn't go away, Clark said.
"That's not how it was sold to the community," Clark said.
But Councilman Scott Stanley, who favored the raise, said that under Noethlich and Hoffman the city has been well run and tax rates have dropped. He said in light of that the extra cost resulting from the raises is worth it.
"I would rather have the manager who saved me the big bucks," he said,
Councilman Bud Whitlock said that paying a little more for the two positions than what the city manager earns in other towns where there's no assistant doesn't bother him.
"We need to sweat the big stuff and not the little stuff," he said.
Fells said that his opinion was a combination of the others. Ultimately, he said, he had some ideas on how to provide Noethlich with extra assistance and not have an assistant city administrator position.
The decision, Clark said, ended up being made on other factors than what the comparisons with other cities justify.
"There's a natural tendency for politicians to become friends with their staff," he said.
But Councilman John Griffin said Noethlich has done a good job and his salary is $40,000 behind the average of the other cities compared, while Hoffman's salary is $20,000 under the average.
"They've been underpaid for a long time," he said.
As for the code enforcement officers, their salaries will be raised to around $30,000 to make the pay more comparable with other cities.