Assembly approves additional pay for interim borough officials

While serving as interim borough manager, Finance Director Mason Villarma will make $10,000 per month in addition to his regular monthly base salary of just under $10,000 per month.

As interim deputy borough manager, Clerk Kim Lane will receive an additional $2,700 per month. Lane already serves as “acting” borough manager if the borough manager is unavailable, and her amended contract adds the same amount to her monthly paycheck that she would make as acting manager.

Both contracts take effect Nov. 1 and expire June 30, 2024, or as soon as a new manager is hired and trained.

The borough assembly selected Villarma and Lane for the interim positions during an executive session Oct. 10 and approved their updated contracts at its Oct. 24 meeting. Mayor Patty Gilbert and Vice Mayor David Powell negotiated the positions’ salaries and duties.

“We looked into this quite a bit and I figure we’re saving money,” Powell said Oct. 24. “It’s going to cost us no matter what to have an interim borough manager.”

By tapping Villarma and Lane for the work, the borough can “(keep) our projects moving along “instead of “having an interim borough manager from AML (the Alaska Municipal League), which would just keep our doors open,” he continued. “This is a big benefit to us to keep our projects moving, keep it in-house.”

Borough Manager Jeff Good submitted his resignation in September, effective Jan. 1, though he will take a significant amount of leave from the position over the next couple of months.

In 2021, when then-Manager Lisa Von Bargen resigned, the borough considered turning to AML for a temporary replacement. Staff found that an interim borough manager from AML would cost between $10,000 and $13,000 per month, plus lodging, food and transportation costs for the length of their tenure, according to Gilbert. Most interims available through AML are retired former managers.

The current market for an interim manager, according to Villarma, is in the $15,000 to $18,000 range per month.

“It starts to add up,” said Gilbert.

Though Villarma acknowledged that he would likely not be working double the hours after his compensation doubles, “the workload will double,” he said, and feels that the raise is “commensurate to the tasks.”

The pay raise is “a drop in the bucket when you consider the forward momentum we could have,” he said.

Ideally, he added, he will revert to his finance director contract in a few months, once the borough finds a replacement manager.

His monthly interim contract is $1,000 greater than Good received when he served as interim manager from Nov. 1, 2021, to mid-January 2022.

For Assembly Member Jim DeBord, the cost of the opportunities the borough might lose if it hired an external interim manager far outweighs Villarma’s monthly compensation, especially after considering his track record as finance director.

The contracts for the interim manager and deputy manager were negotiated together, Lane explained in an email, and she received the amount that she requested in the negotiation.

 

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