© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Kansas City’s mayor and city council gave themselves a 15% pay raise — their first in 4 years

 A man wearing a blue suit jacket, looks off camera in an office space. He's listening to someone off-camera.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas appeared on KCUR's Up To Date on June 30, 2023.

Mayor Quinton Lucas, who was recently re-elected to another four-year term, will be paid $163,082 a year. Council members, who are considered part-time employees, increased their salaries to $81,538, although a majority of current members won't be sticking around to enjoy the bump.

Kansas City Council members and Mayor Quinton Lucas marked the final day of the legislative term by voting to give themselves a 15% pay raise.

The ordinance passed 11-1, and will take effect Aug. 1, 2023, when many new council members take office.

This is the first pay raise for city leaders in four years; council last passed a 15% salary increase in 2019.

Under the newly-approved ordinance, the mayor’s salary will jump from $141,455 to $163,082. Council members, who are considered part-time employees, will see an increase from $70,718 to $81,538.

Both members and the mayor will also maintain a “monthly car allowances,” adjusted annually for cost of living, although the ordinance does not specify how much money that is.

Thursday’s meeting was the last session of this four-year term — one that was punctuated by the coronavirus pandemic and often centered around debates over affordable housing, police funding, city services and economic development.

Behind the pay raises

In addition to mayor and council members, the ordinance will increase the pay of municipal judges to $163,082 and housing court judges to $122,312.

Hourly wages for city employees will increase for jobs like electronics technician, bus operator and videographer, as well as monthly wages for jobs like forester and area superintendent.

But the changes won’t make the mayor the highest paid city employee. In fact, Lucas would still only be about 31st in pay - the title of highest paid Kansas City employee belongs to City Manager Brian Platt, who is not elected but rather appointed by City Council, with a salary of $265,000.

The proposal was advanced on Tuesday, 3-1, by the council’s Special Committee for Legal Review.

“It is pretty common to have new salaries at the start of each term,” said Saskia Jacobse, deputy director of human resources, to the committee. Finance department director Tammy Queen testified that this ordinance fits well within the existing budget, as the raises only add up to about 4.5% of the city’s contingency funds.

“This ordinance by itself won’t break that bank,” Queen said.

Committee members Lee Barnes Jr., Andrea Bough and Kevin McManus voted to affirm the ordinance. Heather Hall was the only member to oppose, because it included changes to hired employee salaries, which she felt should be on separate legislation from elected officials. She did not oppose the salary increase overall.

The salary of Kansas City’s mayor continues to be higher than the pay of both neighboring governors, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson ($137,167) and Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly ($110,707).

In 2019, Lucas spoke in opposition to a salary increase when he was still a city council member. However, he was out of town on the day of the vote and did not participate.

"We sign up for these jobs to do public service," Lucas said in a 2019 interview with KSHB. "You know what the salary is when you're running. I understand where the proposal is coming from, but it's not something I support."

But on Thursday, Lucas — who was recently re-elected to another four-year term — was among the majority who voted to increase pay.

Hall once again was the lone “no” vote. 3rd District At-Large Councilman Brandon Ellington, the only council member to lose his re-election bid, was absent.

All five council members who will remain in office in August voted in favor of a raise..

The new salaries are less than what they would have been had the council’s 2010 ordinance, which promised a 4% pay raise every year, took effect. But that ordinance was repealed a year later.

A similar, but more dramatic, vote happened in St. Louis in January where the Aldermen — equivalent to city council members — voted to almost double their pay from $37,400 to $72,000. St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones has a salary of $131,820.

Smaller towns often don’t offer salaries to council members and the mayor, such as in Springfield, where the council is unpaid and the mayor receives a $200 monthly stipend, or in Columbia, where council members earn $500 a month and the mayor earns $750 a month.

What City Council accomplished this year

City council has passed several key pieces of legislation since January. The most significant was a city budget for the new fiscal year, which included $284.5 million for the Kansas City Police Department — the largest budget allocation in five years.

The budget also increased funding for the “right to counsel” program that provides free attorneys to defendants in eviction court - which has already helped hundreds of tenants avoid eviction.

Officials also overhauled regulations on short-term rentals, passing stricter rules that prevent Airbnbs from certain residential areas and increasing fines on those who break the rules. That legislation is currently under litigation, after a group of short-term rental operators sued the city.

In response to mounting concerns from residents and nearby municipalities, the council approved a yearlong moratorium on any permits for a new landfill within city limits. Officials also did away with a long-despised rule in Kansas City’s service industry that required restaurant and bar workers to obtain a liquor license card.

On Thursday, the council approved resolutions directing City Manager Platt to look into a homeownership assistance program for city employees, making city resources and communications more accessible to people who do not speak English as their first language, and establishing a task force to prioritize the delivery of city services in high-crime neighborhoods.

Members also approved spending $15 million over three years on the 2026 World Cup. Some of the funding will come from the new taxes and fees on Airbnbs, which Kansas City voters approved in April. The convention and tourism fund will be another source of revenue.

Looking ahead to the next term

Of the 12 current council members, only five will remain in office in August to benefit from the raises: 1st District At-Large Councilman Kevin O’Neil, 3rd District Councilwoman Melissa Robinson, 4th District Councilman Eric Bunch, 5th District Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw and 6th District At-Large Councilwoman Andrea Bough, all of whom werere-elected in last month’s municipal elections.

They will be joined by the seven candidates who won their elections last month: Nathan Willett in the 1st District, Lindsay French in the 2nd District At-Large, Melissa Patterson Hazley in the 3rd District At-Large, Crispin Rea in the 4th District At-Large, Darrell Curls in the 5th District At-Large, and Johnathan Duncan in the 6th District.

Six other members — 1st District Councilwoman Heather Hall, 2nd District Councilman Dan Fowler, 2nd District At-Large Councilwoman Teresa Loar, 4th District At-Large Councilwoman Katheryn Shields and 6th District Councilman Kevin McManus — completed their second term and could not run for re-election.

On Thursday, Council members were still able to introduce legislation that will wait until the new council is sworn in.

This includes a resolution from Lucas and Bunch directing City Manager Platt to look into establishing road diets — narrowing or reducing the number of lanes to improve safety — on streets with four or more lanes.

The new city council will be inaugurated in August.

This story was produced through a collaboration between KCUR and the Missouri Business Alert, powered by the KC Media Collective.

Noah Zahn is the summer 2023 news intern for KCUR and the Missouri Business Alert. He's a recent graduate of the University of Missouri. Email him at noahzahn@kcur.org.
As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.