St. Petersburg City Council wants to hire some help navigating a sea of paperwork

ST. PETERSBURG —Since the beginning of the year, City Council members have had to digest 4,522 pages of documents, attend hundreds of hours of meetings and deal with resident complaints late into the night.

The average work week for a part-time City Council member? About 40 to 50 hours. They’re paid $44,452 a year.

St. Petersburg City Council chairwoman Darden Rice thinks it’s time she and her colleagues had more help: She wants to hire four full-time legislative aides who would help the eight council members prepare for meetings, conduct policy research and perform constituent services.

“I really see this as increasing the efficiency of City Council,” Rice said.

The four new positions — including benefits — would cost a total of about $266,000 a year. The annual salaries, yet to be finalized, would be around $50,000.

Similarly-sized cities like Tampa and Orlando already have full-time legislative aides.

“St. Pete is an anomaly,” Rice said.

The City Council currently has three staffers whose primary job is to answer questions from the public and coordinate council’s schedule. But as city department heads polish up their staffing requests for the upcoming budget season, Rice wants council members to join that discussion when city dollars get doled out.

Mayor Rick Kriseman supports expanding the City Council’s staff, said mayoral spokesman Ben Kirby, but hasn’t taken a position on how many aides should be hired.

The council ultimately approves the city’s budget after two public hearings in September, but Rice doesn’t anticipate any public outcry. She said she’s spoken to community leaders who agree council members need the help.

Rice is running for re-election. So far, no one has announced plans to run against her. But she doesn’t think hiring more council staff will become a political hot potato.

“I couldn’t imagine anyone making this a campaign issue,” she said. “Frankly, it’s long overdue and we all know it.”

Council members warmly greeted Rice’s idea…

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