Potential charter changes now in commissioners’ hands

Potential salary increases, removal of term limits among issues under consideration

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 6/8/22

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Charter Review Committee has forwarded three charter amendments to the Board of County Commissioners to possibly place on the ballot.

Last week, the committee approved a …

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Potential charter changes now in commissioners’ hands

Potential salary increases, removal of term limits among issues under consideration

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Charter Review Committee has forwarded three charter amendments to the Board of County Commissioners to possibly place on the ballot.

Last week, the committee approved a cost of living increase for county commissioners, removing term limits for constitutional officers and revising appointments of committee members. For the amendment to pass, county commissioners must approve each to place on the ballot and voters must pass changes with a majority vote this fall.

The committee voted to maintain commissioner salaries at $37,000, but use the federal Consumer Price Index data to adjust it by the rate of inflation each budget year. The measure was passed by the committee, 8-3.

Committee member Mitch Timberlake said he believed the current commissioner salary package was punitive. He said voters would give the ultimate answer.

“It hadn’t been increased in a number of years and certainly the county commissioner (salaries) deserve to be amended for that,” Timberlake said.

According to the charter, a person elected to a constitutional office for three consecutive four-year terms is not eligible to run for a fourth term. Removing term limits for the county’s five constitutional officers also passed, 8-3.

A much larger commissioner salary increase forwarded by different committee members was negated by voters in the 2018 election.

At the 30-minute committee meeting, resident Richard Klinzman voiced concerns on multiple items. He said this was the second committee in a row focused on the five commissioners’ salaries. He didn’t like that the proposal was cumulative, meaning a commissioner could potentially have several cost of living increases.

He asked if the commissioner position could be listed as a full-time job.

“What I don’t understand, is why this came up four years ago, it was voted down decisively and why it’s been brought back again because calling it a cost of living increase … it’s not straight,” Klinzman said. “It’s just looking for a raise.”

The final item forwarded last week sought to change how often the committee meets, from four years to eight-year intervals, which in previous meetings committee members said was following the lead of other Florida counties. The item passed unanimously as well as a committee recommendation to the county to create a file to assist future members with previous committee decisions.

This committee usually met between one-and-three times a month since October. Items on the cutting room floor include changes to the number of commissioners or making their voting districts at-large rather than zoned. The committee decided not to forward ballot measures altering the comptroller’s duties or adding minimum qualifications or age requirements to constitutional officer positions.

Committee member Connie Schoenung voted against the salary adjustment and removing term limits, but remarked how civil the committee did its work.

“We respected each other’s opinions whether we agreed or disagreed,” she said.

Chairman Bo Norton said the 12 meetings led to a long process, but county staff and committee were owed a debt of gratitude for their assistance.

“This is a group of concerned citizens who volunteer their time. This is democracy in action and we appreciate it,” he said.

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