Salary numbers for Grand Forks City Hall's highest earners were released this week for Council review. Though hundreds of employees are receiving raises, payroll won't be growing as much as it might have as the city braces for potentially tough financial decisions.

"We, of course, have a new sales tax, but none of that can be used for general fund spending," said City Council President Dana Sande, referring to a half-penny sales tax bump that will be used for street and water projects. "All of that spending is going to go into infrastructure, which is good-we need it-but we still have a tight budget when it comes to general fund spending."

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The city's top earner is City Administrator Todd Feland, whose 2018 salary is $160,430, according to city documents, in a 4.93 percent raise over his current $152,901 salary. He's followed by Fire Chief Peter O'Neill, who will briefly receive an annual salary of $133,786 before he retires after Jan. 5, and City Engineer Al Grasser, who will receive $126,568.

The city's highest-paid woman is Finance Director Maureen Storstad, who will be paid a 2018 salary of $126,422 in a 4.61 percent raise. She is the fourth-highest paid city employee.

"I'm always humbled to serve on behalf of the citizens of Grand Forks," Feland said, adding that he's impressed with city employees' work, and that he and all other staff "try to deliver as much value to Grand Forks as possible."

"I can't speak to my own value, but hopefully people feel that I'm of that value," Feland said.

Sande defended this year's list of raises, which cover hundreds of employees and amount to a 2.22 percent expansion of the city's payroll. The city's salary plan had initially called for a 2.74 percent increase, which went unfulfilled amid budgetary pressures. Sande said the state's decision to cut a property tax buydown was a key factor.

"I would say that we are pretty fortunate that we have a very strong leadership team in City Hall, and in my opinion, they are all worth more than what they're paid," Sande said. "And therefore, I think we get good value for the work that they provide."

City Council member Bret Weber was one of the loudest advocates for honoring the fully salary plan, which would have meant a larger set of funds to distribute among employees-and he had hoped to pay for it with a millage increase. Before a final budget vote, which did not include his proposal, he lamented the council's failure to honor a "labor agreement."

Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown will also see a raise next year, with his salary increasing from $24,000 to $29,620, owing to adjustments that compare his salary to those of other large North Dakota cities, city human resources official Tangee Bouvette said. City Council members voted to forgo their own raises in September, which means their salaries will remain at slightly more than $14,900.

Raises take effect just weeks before the city will begin planning the 2019 budget. This year's planning process, which Sande expects to begin in February, will open five months ahead of schedule as city leaders hope to carefully consider possible declining revenue. Sande said he's unsure if property values will continue to rise at the same pace, which would mean slackening revenue increases at City Hall.

"We're either going to look at the services we provide, or we may need to increase the mills," Sande said. "That's why we're going to start looking at the services we provide sooner."

Top salaries

City Administrator Todd Feland: $160,430-4.93 percent

Fire Chief Peter O'Neill: $133,786-4.43 percent

City Engineer Al Grasser: $126,568-1.33 percent

Finance Director Maureen Storstad: $126,422-4.61

Police Chief Mark Nelson: $124,821-4.45 percent

Human Resources Manager Daryl Hovland: $122,491-1.38 percent

911 Director Rebecca Ault: $120,702-4.02 percent

City Planner Brad Gengler: $120,141-0.73 percent

Health Department Director Deb Swanson: $115,170-2.42 percent

City Assessor Paul Houdek: $114,379-1.72 percent

IT Director Adam Jonasson: $112,216-1.81 percent

Public Works Director LeahRae Amundson: $107,869-3.16 percent

Water Works Director Melanie Parvey: $107,619-3.17 percent

Deputy Police Chief Michael Ferguson: $104,957-4.75 percent

Deputy Police Chief James Remer: $104,894-4.76 percent

Community and Government Relations Officer Pete Haga: $103,688-1.49 percent