Government leaders making big bucks while others struggle

Earley's salary is partly based on an increase in workload, according to the mayor of Saginaw.

While many in MidMichigan are struggling to make ends meet, many of our local elected leaders are making off with some serious cash.

Sure, you elect these people or elect the people that appoint these people, but you have no say as to what they get paid.

Let's compare the salaries of the highest paid public officials in MidMichigan's four largest cities.

Midland City Manager Jon Lynch tops the chart with a base pay of $129,532.

Saginaw City Manager Darnell Earley makes $110,000.

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling earns around $92,000.

Bay City Manager Robert Belleman makes $89,776.

"You want good people running your government," says Flint Council Member Joshua Freeman. He says the salaries are justified because the work of city leaders is demanding. "I get phone calls at 2:00 a.m. from a neighbor or resident who has an issue and they expect me to get up and deal with it at 2:00 a.m. I try to do the best I can for them, but it's not a 9 to 5 job. You're on call 24 hours a day."

Saginaw Mayor Greg Branch says Darnell Earley's $110,000 salary is more than fair because Earley hasn't taken an increase since he took office in 2005. "We've actually done some studies to try to compare his salary to those of other city managers our size, and he's way on the low end," says Branch.

Most of the public NBC25 spoke with about this story say they don't know if the salaries are acceptable. However, they'd like elected officials to prove they're worth it.

Michael Burton of Mt. Morris says, "I do think it's something we need to take a look at especially because we have no direct accountability to the people. If we were to decide that maybe someone wasn't worth as much as they were making or they could decide that for themselves and say 'Hey, I can take a little cut," and maybe have some more police officers, that would help too."

Those who set the salaries say they've taken a lot of details into consideration and that managing the public sector is specialized work and demands proper compensation.

The base salaries do not reflect the benefits packages given to these elected officials, which can run tens of thousands of dollars.

This year, Flint Mayor Dayne Walling took a 10% pay cut. Bay City Manager Robert Belleman took a 5% pay cut. Saginaw's and Midland's city managers did not get a pay increase this year.

The city of Midland approved an additional $500 for Lynch last month, to help him pay for memberships in local civic organizations.

How much do you think local government leaders should make? Tell us your opinion in the comment section below.