GUSTINE - City Council members could soon be taking action to increase their monthly stipend.
The proposal on the table would increase monthly council member salaries from the current $85, which was in the far lowest ranges of 20 or so cities surveyed, to $300 - the highest amount the state Government Code allows for smaller cities without adoption of a special ordinance or vote of the people.
Gustine’s salary structure also includes no additional compensation for the mayor or other benefits such as health insurance, perks which some cities offer their elected leaders.
According to staff reports, the council had requested the salary comparison at a previous meeting.
When presented the results, council members were open to the idea of bringing their compensation more into line with that offered by other cities.
Mayor Pat Nagy pointed out that the council salaries have not been adjusted in more than a decade. The city’s elected leaders have put off that debate in light of the city’s financial challenges, he said, but with an improving economic outlook the time has come to revisit the issue.
“I go in the hole every month between mileage and time off work,” the mayor stated.
“I agree,” said council member Rich Ford. “I think it is overdue. It shouldn’t cost you money to be on the City Council. You should get some kind of compensation.”
“You don’t have to get rich, but you should be getting something,” concurred council member Craig Turner.
The staff survey showed a wide range of compensation among cities.
At one end of the spectrum, the survey indicated that council members in Woodside, Portola Valley and Villa Park received no compensation whatsoever.
At the other, the survey indicated that Crescent City council members received monthly salaries of $610, as well as health insurance and retirement benefits. Solvang offers monthly salaries of $600 (with an extra $100 for the mayor), while Big Bear Lake council members receive $500 a month with $50 allowances for travel and technology as well as health, dental and vision coverage (the mayor receives an additional $50 for travel).
Newman council members receive monthly stipends of $100 and the mayor earns $250, City Hall staff there reported.
Because the effective date of any salary increases is tied to council members being seated to start a new term, the higher salary would not become reality until January 2021, according to staff reports.
Council had the option of deferring action to establish the new compensation amount until closer to that date, but instead directed staff to move forward in the near future.
City Manager Doug Dunford said he anticipates the proposed salary increase to be on the council’s Sept. 17 meeting.
In addition to helping ensure that the costs of serving in public office are covered and that members do get some compensation, Ford offered still another, tongue-in-cheek reason for increasing the council pay.
“If you don’t pay your City Council enough,” he jokingly said from the dais, “this is the kind of people who get elected.”