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.
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.