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New Minneapolis Park Board members propose to triple their pay

After a sweep of new members on the Minneapolis Park Board, some were surprised to find they'd make just $12,400 a year.

After a sweep of new members on the Minneapolis Park Board, some were surprised to find they'd make just $12,400 a year. Star Tribune

This year has seen massive turnover for the Minneapolis Parks Board. Of its nine members, six are newly elected. And some are quickly learning that they don’t like the pay.

Members make just over $12,400 a year -- more than the Three Rivers Park District ($11,700), but less than the Minneapolis School Board ($20,000).

So during a recent budget retreat, some reportedly proposed a new salary, tripling their pay to between $30,000 and $37,000.

The idea was destined to meet general outrage. Commissioner Londel French -- himself a newcomer -- says he’d “never” advocate for a pay raise. President Brad Bourn is “not yet convinced it’s a discussion we need to be having right now.” Scott Vreeland, a previous board member, was definitely concerned.

“I was a commissioner until last December, and my last W-2 for that year was about $12,000,” he says. The idea that commissioners, “as soon as elected,” would try to boost their pay was unheard of. Traditionally, the outgoing board determines increases for the incoming board -- if any. And the last board kept wages frozen.

So far, commissioners willing to speak are declining to finger the idea's promoters. (The remaining members didn’t respond to interview requests.)

Veteran Commissioner Meg Forney thinks the request is a symptom of the rude awakening that befalls new commissioners. “There is a certain naiveté about what the position entails,” she says. “I know a couple were surprised by what the compensation was.”

She remembers being overwhelmed by how much work her new role required. She estimates each spends at least 20 hours weekly. For her, it’s more like “24/7.” And it took her a year to get used to it.

But Forney’s opinion is complicated. On one hand, she’d be loath to sacrifice programming to improve pay. She usually ends up donating the lion’s share of her salary anyway.

Yet she also understands that low wages may only attract members who are comfortable enough to not need a paycheck. “We want to make sure all voices are heard on elected bodies,” she says.