Simplified: A measure to let voters decide on raising the mayor's salary to $195,000 per year passed its first hurdle Tuesday night. Here's what you need to know.

Why it matters

  • The motive for the measure, according to co-sponsor Councilor Marshall Selberg, was a desire to both bring the mayor's salary closer to that of city department heads and a hope that higher pay will attract the "best and the brightest" to seek public office.
  • There are currently 22 city employees who make more money than the mayor.
  • City councilors' salaries are tied directly to the mayor's, so any increase will impact the nine council members as well. Their pay would rise to $29,250 – an increase from the current rate of $19,612.
  • The public gets the final vote on whether these city leaders get a raise.
"People are always hesitant to potentially touch the pay of elected officials just because of the optics," said Councilor Greg Neitzert, co-sponsor of the amendment. "This proposal, if we approve it, it would just submit it to the voters, and the voters would decide."

What's the background here?

Mayor's salary is written into the city charter – the governing document for the city.

It was last updated in 1994, when Sioux Falls switched to a strong mayor form of government.

  • At that time, the salary was set at $75,000.
  • With inflation adjustments, the mayor now makes $130,748.80.
"It's been a bit of a head-scratcher for me for awhile," Selberg said of why the mayor's salary is lower than most city department heads.

City employees with higher salaries than the mayor (click to expand)

City Attorney Stacy Kooistra: $170,019.20

Deputy City Attorney Karen Leonard: $140,171.20

Public Works Director Mark Cotter: $198,744

Utility Operations Administrator Trent Lubbers: $145,017.60

Assistant City Engineer Shannon Verhey: $132,974.40

Assistant Director of Finance Thomas Huber: $132,974.40

Director of Finance Shawn Pritchett: $179,940.80

Fire Chief Brad Goodroad: $151,195.20

Dentist Iyad Alyo: $162,281.60

Public Health Director Charles Chima*

Dentist Dale Johnson: $177,403.20

Dentist Elizabeth Naber: $177,403.20

Chief Medical Officer Jennifer Tinguely: $256,172.80

Director of Human Resources Bill O'Toole: $157,352

Director of Siouxland Libraries Jodi Fick: $134,804.80

Chief of Staff Erica Beck: $177,715.20

Director of Parks and Recreation Don Kearney: $170,019.20

Director of Planning and Development Services Jeff Eckhoff: $164,361.60

Police Chief Matt Burns: $160,388.80

Assistant Police Chief Kyle Hoekstra: $136,843.20

Director of Innovation Michael Grigsby: $157,352

Wastewater Superintendent Mark Perry: $132,974.40

*Chima's salary was not included in the city's 2021 salary document because he wasn't hired until May. Jill Franken, who previously held the job, made more than $170,000.

What happens next?

The charter amendment moves to a second reading Dec. 21. If the City Council approves it, it'll be on the April 12 ballot, and voters will make the final decision.