For the fourth time in his 12-year tenure as mayor of South Salt Lake, James W. Davis has turned down a raise.

Wednesday night, after a noisy - sometimes fractious - public hearing, the South Salt Lake City Council voted to raise the mayor's and council members' salaries 5.5 percent. But Davis, exercising his right to veto all or part of any council action, refused to take the increase that would have boosted his pay from $54,828 to $57,844."I don't want to be grandstanding on the issue. I have never mentioned why I haven't taken the money in the past," Davis said. "But I have been mayor for 12 years . . . just with longevity increases, it (my salary) is going to increase at a certain rate."

Davis said he believes with his advanced education and 20-year experience in the public sector, "I should be compensated at the highest level. But I recognize that's not the general will of the people for elected officials. I have tried to keep my salary in line with where I believe it should be."

Even without the raise, Davis, mayor of the third-smallest city in Salt Lake County, remains the highest-paid mayor, earning nearly $5,000 more than Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis and $52,428 more than Bluffdale Mayor Lee G. Wanlass, the county's lowest-paid mayor, whose annual salary is $2,400. But Wanlass is only part-time.

Davis is the only full-time mayor in the county who also serves as city administrator, as well as head of public safety and public works.

By comparison, DePaulis and his chief-of-staff make a combined salary that more than doubles Davis' compensation. The county's two other full-time mayors - in Murray and Sandy - also have full-time assistants.

The salaries of city council members in the Salt Lake Valley range from nothing to $8,424 a year. Some councils meet weekly, others meet twice a week and others once a month. But all council members are on variouscommittees that meet as often as once a week. In Sandy, council members get paid by the hour. They are paid $21.51 per hour and work 11.6 hours or 17.4 hours every two weeks. That means they make from $6,487 to $9,731.

The salary action in South Salt Lake came two weeks after council members had voted 6-1 to increase their pay from $5,544 to $7,000, only to be told a council vote to raise its pay had to be part of a properly noticed public hearing.

South Salt Lake hired consultant John Gisler to complete an $11,000 comparison study of the city's salary structure to ensure the city was competitive.

Two weeks ago, the South Salt Lake City Council voted to accept Gisler's recommendations, which included changes in the employees' pay and benefit packages and raises for the mayor and City Council.

Gisler's recommendations for across-the-board pay raises, pay scale augmentations for senior police and fire department employees and additional pay in the form of merit increases were reaffirmed in Wednesday night's council vote.

The pay increases represent an average 5.5 percent increase for South Salt Lake's 108 full-time employees. The council approved the same percentage increase for itself and the mayor after hearing public testimony from approximately 10 people, most of whom spoke against the raise proposal for the mayor and seven council members.

Reasons for objecting to the pay increase ranged from fears that the country is going into a recession to the idea that council members shouldn't be motivated by their pay.

"The money you receive is a gratuity, not a salary," one speaker said.

After some parliamentary jockeying, council members voted 4-2 to raise their annual salaries to $5,849. Councilman Wes Losser and Councilwoman Judy Siebach cast the nay votes.

Losser reiterated his stance of two weeks ago, when he said he supported the pay increases for city employees but not for council members. He said he would support a 2 percent pay raise for the mayor plus a potential 3.5 percent merit increase - identical to the the package offered city employees.

Siebach previously voted in favor of the council pay increase. When she reversed herself Wednesday night, she sternly told the nearly 100 people at the meeting that she didn't want their applause. "I am your representative," she said. "Whether I agree with you or not, I am voting as your representative."

While vetoing his own pay increase, Davis wholeheartedly supported raises for the employees and City Council members.

This council and previous ones, he said, helped attract large sales tax- producing businesses that have kept residents' property taxes "the lowest in urban Utah."


(Additional information)

Comparing pay

Pop. Mayor Admin. Council

Bluffdale 2,106 $2,400 none $0

Draper 7,355 $4,000 $37,000 $3,000

Midvale 11,691 $7,000 $35,000 $3,048

Murray 30,997 $47,760 $42,312 $8,424

South S.L. 10,048 $54,828 none $5,849

Sandy 74,391 $37,385 $49,129* $21.51

SLC 158,130 $50,000 $70,452 $10,000

WVC 86,826 $12,000 $66,000 $6,000

Riverton 11,207 $3,600 none $3,600

W. Jordan 42,261 $10,140 $56,664 $5,880

*Hourly rate

Population figures are from 1990 census, U.S. Department of Commerce.

Figures for chief administrators in Salt Lake City, West Jordan and West Valley City represent the most the city is allowed to pay. These cities refused to provide exact salaries.