City Council Salaries

TOPIC DISCUSSION PAPER: City Council Salaries
 
 
ISSUE STATEMENT: Should the charter address salary issues for city council members?
 
EXISTING CHARTER LANGUAGE: Article 3, Section 3 of the city charter requires that changes to the level of compensation received by elective officers (except for Recorder and Judge) be submitted to a vote of the people. Right now, each city council member receives $350 per year and the Mayor receives $500; these pay levels have been unchanged since at least 1976. However, elected officials also receive full medical, vision and dental benefits and a small life insurance policy that covers themselves and dependents.
 
Budget implications: It is likely that the charter election requirement discourages the council from proposing pay raises for its members, thus minimizing budget impacts.
 
Accountability: City voters are required to approve all changes in council pay.
 
Community/Council impacts: Proponents argue that the existing system restrains the council from enacting costly and/or inappropriate pay increases.   Conversely, critics claim: 1) that salary issues are best delegated via ordinance; and/or, 2) that council members deserve to be paid for the work that they perform.
 
ALTERNATIVES:
 1.      Status quo. Charter language remains unchanged.
Budget, accountability, and impacts as outlined above.
 
2.      Remove the election requirement from the charter.
 
Budget: No immediate impacts. Budget allocation for council salaries could increase with future council action.
 
Accountability: Decision-making would shift from voters to the council.
 
Community/council impacts: Proponents argue that the council should be allowed to administer salary increases without assuming the burden of a city election; critics believe the voters should be the arbiters of council salaries.
 
3.      Implement a specific salary-level in the charter along with requirements for periodic review and/or pay increases.
 
Budget: Budget impacts will depend on the specific proposal. For example, if council members were paid for twenty hours a week at the current living wage level of $11.44/hour, the monthly bill would be approximately $7,207 (seven elected officials each working 90 hours a month), or more than $86,000 annually.
 
Accountability: After initial charter approval, all pay raises would be predicated on a specific formula or review process.
 
Community/council impacts: Proponents argue that more significant salary levels would encourage prospective council candidates who now feel that serving on the council is too much of a financial burden. Conversely, critics argue: 1) that it is inappropriate to allocate extensive city funding to support elected officials; and, 2) that substantive salary levels would encourage council members to become too involved in city administration.
 
 

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