By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Tupelo’s top city officials earn about the same as their counterparts across the state’s largest municipalities, according to the 2012 Municipal Salary Survey issued this summer by Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute of Government.
The survey compares salaries and benefits of key municipal positions like mayor, council members and department heads, in roughly 175 cities across the state.
Among the 10 largest communities – of which Tupelo ranks No. 7 – mayors earn an average of $95,976 and council members $17,901. Tupelo pays its highest elected officials slightly less: $92,242 for mayor and $16,932 for council members.
It also pays less than the big-city average for its Human Resources director, who earns $5,260 below the norm, and its Public Works director, who earns $2,443 below. None take home the least amount of money, though. Horn Lake and Greenville both pay less for those positions.
Tupelo could increase its Human Resources director’s salary this year after at least one City Council member called it unfair compared to what other department heads earn – a gap of $10,000 to $20,000.
The council must set FY2013 salaries and other city expenses by mid September before the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1. No other staff raises are anticipated.
“Our salaries are in line,” said Tupelo’s Chief Financial Officer Lynn Norris. “They’re not too high nor too low. They’re kind of in the mid-range.”
Other key office holders in Tupelo take home more, on average, than their big-city counterparts. Among them are the city clerk, Parks and Recreation director, police chief, fire chief and Development Services director – referred to as city planner in the survey.
Some, like the fire chief, earn as little as $2,642 above average. Others, like the Development Services director, earn as much as $21,973 above average.
The only position for which Tupelo pays more than any other top 10 city is its Parks and Recreation director at $77,249.
But while the survey provides side-by-side comparisons of municipal salaries, it doesn’t adjust for differences in tenure, educational attainment or job duties – all of which can vary widely among office holders and can account for some of the earning gaps.