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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