What are municipal department heads, charter officers paid annually?

Queen Creek Town Manager John Kross at the West Park groundbreaking ceremony. He makes $195,335 annually. (File photo)

The Town of Queen Creek’s 10 charter officers and department heads combined make a similar amount as their 12 counterparts in the City of Apache Junction — a bit over $1.5 million in annual pay.

The salaries of those in Queen Creek are paid $1,566,151 and those in Apache Junction make $1,539,574.57, according to materials provided from public records requests to both municipalities.

The amounts are not an exact apples-to-apples comparison. For example, Queen Creek has a fire chief and Apache Junction is serviced by a separate entity, the Superstition Fire and Medical District; and Apache Junction has a police chief while Queen Creek has a contract with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

Additionally, Apache Junction didn’t supply the salaries for its city manager, assistant city manager or assistant to the city manager; Queen Creek’s public information manager also oversees two other departments; and Queen Creek has a utility director while a portion of Apache Junction is serviced by the Apache Junction Water Utilities Community Facilities District and the remainder by Arizona Water Co.

The two municipalities are similar in size and are in the same counties.

The 32.2-square-mile Town of Queen Creek, incorporated in 1989, is in Maricopa and Pinal counties just north of the San Tan Mountains. The population is 39,184, last estimated in 2017, according to census.gov.

The 35-square-mile City of Apache Junction, incorporated in 1978, is in Pinal and Maricopa counties just west of the Superstition Mountains. The population of 40,538, last estimated in 2017, according to census.gov, swells to 80,000 and more with winter residents.

Records requested

Salaries and employment contracts for all charter officers or department heads were sought in e-mailed public-records requests. Queen Creek provided employment agreements for its town manager, from 2011; and clerk, from 2010; Apache Junction City Clerk Kathy Connelly e-mailed asking for what year, was told 2018, and provided employment 2018 agreements for its city attorney and magistrate.

Queen Creek e-mailed the information; Apache Junction required 25 cents per page, for a total of $2.25.

Resident reaction

In Queen Creek, according to the provided records, the lowest amount paid for charter officers and department heads is $127,687 annually and the highest is $195,335, with contract employees eligible for merit and market-based increases.
In Apache Junction, the lowest annual salary is $109,364.74 and the highest is $148,243.06.

Reactions by area residents were mixed when the Independent listed the low and high amounts per municipality and posed the question “Are they underpaid for their government jobs? Why or why not?” to several Facebook pages and groups.

“Queen Creek officials definitely deserve more. With all the new land that they have conquered — I mean annexed — they need more to help them keep going,” Jared McGowan wrote.

“I am a resident of San Tan Valley who is against annexation,” he wrote in a direct-message response to questions.
“Why such high salaries?” wrote Apache Junction resident Gilbert K. Cancio, who ran unsuccessfully for Apache Junction School District Governing Board in the Nov. 6 election.

“How do those salaries compare to other salaries of same-sized communities in Pinal County? Just wondering,” he wrote in a direct-message response to questions.

A former councilman had a different take.

“No. They are not overpaid,” former Apache Junction City Councilman R.E. Eck wrote.

“Compared to the market, they’re fine. This doesn’t just come overnight — they have years of experience and dedication,” he said.

Queen Creek

The salaries listed by the Town of Queen Creek in the records request are:

  • Utilities Director Paul Gardner: $160,664.
  • Finance Director Scott McCarty: $166,948.
  • Economic Development Director Doreen Cott: $153,900.
  • Public Works Director Troy White: $148,650.
  • Communications, Marketing and Recreation Services Director Marnie Schubert: $148,399.
  • Fire Chief Vance Gray: $145,500.
  • Interim Development Services Director Brett Burningham: $135,000.
  • Town Clerk Jennifer Robinson: $127,687.
  • Assistant Town Manager Bruce Gardner: $184,068.
  • Town Manager John Kross: $195,335.

Constance Halonen-Wilson, the Town of Queen Creek’s public information officer, said in an e-mail that contract employees are eligible for merit and market-based increases.

QC town clerk employment agreement

The Oct. 1, 2010, agreement for Ms. Robinson states she had worked for the town for 15 years and was to be paid an annual salary of $86,601.

“Town clerk shall be entitled to receive cost-of-living adjustments or market rate adjustments to salary to the same degree as such adjustments are provided across-the-board for all employees of the town,” the agreement states.

In addition to being town clerk, the agreement states “The clerk shall hold the office of treasurer and receive and safely keep all monies that shall come to the town and pay out the same when authorized by the council.”

Also, the clerk shall be the town election official and perform those duties required by state statute, the employment agreement says.

QC town manager employment agreement

The agreement for Mr. Kross states it was approved Feb, 2, 2011, with a base compensation of $167,526 annually.

“The base compensation is the actual total compensation town manager receives currently due to annual sick time and vacation time allowances and does not reflect an actual increase in salary. This change to base eliminates annual sick time and vacation cash-out provisions and places a maximum cap on vacation cash-out upon leaving service. This change is reflective of the median salary for positions comparable to Queen Creek’s manager position,” the agreement states.

The town manager’s compensation was reduced that year because of fiscal constraints.

“Base compensation reflects a salary reduction of 6.25 percent agreed to in recognition of current fiscal constraints and shall be reinstated to its pre-reduction amount with suitable increases as the town is fiscally capable and institutes similar salary reinstatements to town’s other employees. Payment shall be made on a biweekly basis,” the agreement states.

The manager accrues vacation at a rate of 20.3 hours per month, which is credited in full on Jan. 1 each year. Also, the town pays for an annual executive physical, commonly provided by the Mayo Clinic; and a life-insurance policy in an amount equal to two times his base compensation, the agreement states.

Concerning personal time, it states: “It is understood and agreed that the manager will be required not only to work during normal office hours but also will spend considerable time outside of these hours including, but not limited to, attendance at board meetings and council meetings. It is agreed and understood that the manager is allowed personal time off as compensation and said time to be determined at his discretion.”

He receives an automobile allowance of $450 per month for compensation for use of the manager’s personal automobile and other expenses related to the duties of the town manager.

The town provides an annual professional development budget of $8,000, plus necessary travel, lodging and per-diem reimbursement.

Also, the town participates in contributions to the manager’s enrollment in a deferred compensation plan at the rate of $635 per pay period.

Apache Junction

The salaries listed by the City of Apache Junction in the records request are:

  • City Clerk Kathy Connelly: $136,581.54.
  • Economic Development Director Janine Solley: $112,098.90.
  • City Magistrate James W. Hazel Jr.: $131,000.
  • Director of Public Safety/Chief of Police Thomas Kelly: $139,912.86.
  • Development Services Director Larry Kirch: $120,718.21.
  • Parks and Recreation Director Liz Langenbach: $109,364.74.
  • Finance Director Donna Meinerts: $130,000.21.
  • Library Director Spencer Paden: $117,773.76
  • Human Resources Director Elizabeth H. Riley: $136,581.54.
  • Information Technology Director Earl Simmers: $136,581.54.
  • City Attorney Richard Joel Stern: $148,243.06.
  • Public Works Director Michael Wever: $120,718.21.

AJ magistrate employment agreement

The agreement for Mr. Hazel states he has worked in that position since Dec, 15, 2008, and the most recent agreement of Dec. 4, 2018, is for July 1, 2019-June 30, 2021, where he will be paid an annual base salary of $135,000. He is paid $840 for an annual mobile phone stipend.

He is to work at least 40 hours a week, unless off for a holiday or on leave, and is to provide magistrate services every other weekend with pro-tem magistrates used on alternative weekends. He shall on an annual basis accrue 200 hours of vacation leave credited on Dec. 15 each year, with vacation leave in excess of 125 hours paid out on Jan. 15 of each year at the salary rate in effect.

During the term the employee shall accrue no sick leave. He may use 64 hours a year for personal business, according to the agreement.

“It is recognized that employee must devote a large amount of time outside traditional business hours to the business of the city. Employee shall be permitted to adjust his work schedule as he deems appropriate, so long as he is available and the judicial administration of the city is not harmed,” the document states.

The city agrees to budget and to pay for travel and subsistence expenses for professional and official travel, meetings and occasions to continue the state supreme court required or recommended professional development, it states.

AJ city attorney employment agreement

From left, Apache Junction City Manager Bryant Powell and City Attorney Joel Stern at a City Council meeting.
(Arianna Grainey, Independent Newsmedia)

The agreement for Mr. Stern states he was appointed in August 1997 and the document for June 20, 2017, is for serving as the city attorney and Apache Junction Water Utilities Community Facilities District counsel and includes an annual salary of $141,099.90. It states the employee agrees to not seek any agreement modifications until after Jan. 1, 2021.

The city provides a late-model automobile for all city-related business on a 24-hour basis. The city also provides insurance, registration, repairs and maintenance, and gasoline. The city pays his annual state and federal active bar memberships.

He may accrue 260 hours of vacation leave a year. On Sept. 1 of each year the city shall pay the equivalent cash value at the employee’s hourly rate of any accrued vacation in excess of 100 hours. He on an annual basis accrues 112 hours of sick leave. On Sept. 1 of each year the city shall convert 250 hours of the accrued sick leave into a lump sum cash payment at his current hourly rate, according to the agreement.

Within the departmental budget, the city will pay for all seminars and educational programs that relate to municipal issues and those that assist the city attorney in the performance of his duties.

During each fiscal year, the city shall contribute on behalf of the employee $13,000 into a 401(A) profit sharing plan. In addition to standard city-provided life insurance, the city on Aug. 15 of each year will reimburse a supplemental life insurance annual premium not to exceed $4,500.

Editor Richard Dyer can be contacted via e-mail at rdyer@newszap.com or at twitter.com/rhdyer or facebook.com/RichardDyerJournalist

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