By Dawn Krebs
PORT ST. LUCIE -- The end of the year will seem a little brighter for Port St. Lucie city employees, as a previously budgeted raise of 3 percent went into effect on Dec. 20.
The city council unanimously approved the pay raises in a November city council meeting.
The city council also voted to bring the city manager's salary in line with cities the size of Port St. Lucie.
Gregory Oravec received an increase from $121,000 to $165,000 or 36 percent.
The salary Mr. Oravec was making -- $121,000 -- reflected his previous pay as assistant city manager for six months. After former city manager Jerry Bentrott was fired in March and Mr. Oravec was promoted to fill the position, he requested his pay remain the same until after a six-month evaluation had taken place.
Mr. Bentrott's salary when he was fired was $165,000. Up until a month ago, he worked without an assistant city manager, taking on all the responsibilities.
"Eight months ago, we said that in six months we would come back and do a review of him, and at that time, he didn't want to take an increase in salary," said City Councilman Jack Kelly, who was officially attending his last council meeting.
"He said he didn't want to do an increase until we were able to increase everyone else's salary."
The human resources department researched the salaries of city managers who were managing cities the same size as Port St. Lucie, one of the 10 largest cities in the state.
And, according to his contract, the increase was less than he could have asked for. His contract contains a clause stating his salary could be no less than the average of city manager's salaries for cities the same size. That salary number is $179,018.
But Mr. Oravec explained why he didn't want such a large increase in pay.
"I have preached service about self," he said. "Such an adjustment would be too much, and would be more appropriately considered at an annual evaluation in a subsequent budget year."
The council had high praise for the city manager.
"Mr. Oravec has done everything this council has asked of him and more," said Councilman Kelly. "He has saved this city millions of dollars."
Mr. Kelly cited the reconstruction of the police department and the decrease in taxes to residents as some of Mr. Oravec's recent accomplishments.
"I was ready to come to the table and offer more (to Mr. Oravec)," said Councilwoman Michelle Berger. "This is consistent with his altruistic nature and we've seen Mr. Oravec put the organization before himself, and this is another example."
After the vote, Mr. Oravec took a moment to thank the council for allowing him to serve the city.
"It's an honor to serve this council and the community," he said. "And thanks to staff, because I couldn't do anything without the staff that we have."