2010-06-18 / Front Page

Council OKs pay raise for next year

By Michelle Knight

It would be incorrect to say the Camarillo City Council voted itself a raise earlier this month, City Manager Jerry Bankston said.

At the June 9 meeting, city council members unanimously approved an ordinance allowing for a 5 percent pay increase for the City Council in 2011 and another 5 percent in 2012.

By state law, local governments can raise the salaries of city council members only in election years and by no more than 5 percent a year. The pay increase goes into effect after the election, so those elected to the city council in November may or may not be the same ones who voted on the raise.

Bankston said that for that reason it’s incorrect to say the City Council voted itself a raise.

“Given the hours that they work, it’s probably below minimum wage, frankly,” he said.

The same five people have served on the City Council for the past decade.

Camarillo pays its council members $1,092 a month. Their monthly salary would increase $57, to $1,149, or about $14,000 a year, on Jan. 1, 2011, and $1,206 on Jan. 1, 2012.

Health benefits, the $350 a month limit the five council members can be reimbursed for expenses and their annual salaries will cost the city $115,000 in 2010-11. Only three council members opt for city-paid healthcare benefits.

Bankston said if the council did not approve the ordinance this year the next chance for a pay raise would be in 2013, the next election year.

Asked if he thought residents might consider it insensitive for the council to have the opportunity for a raise when some have lost their jobs or seen their work hours reduced, Mayor Kevin Kildee said the council is following a plan laid out by the state. He said the cost of the raise to the city is an inconsequential amount.

“I don’t do it for the money; I don’t think any council member does it for the money,” Kildee said. “We’ve never taken the amount or raises that we could” have.

Charlotte Craven said she figures she spends 28 to 30 hours a week on council business. That includes preparing and researching for the many meetings council members attend and fielding calls from residents.

“It takes so much time, and you have to pay people a little bit for their time,” said Craven, a council member for 24 years. “It’s a much bigger job than a volunteer job.”

Each council member serves on the Camarillo Sanitary District, Community Development Commission and various committees inside and outside the city, including regional associations.

Bankston said just because the law is on the books doesn’t mean newly elected council will keep the raise. Council members Craven, Mike Morgan and Jan McDonald’s seats are up for grabs in the Nov. 2 election.

Those on the council in January may choose to eliminate the pay raise, keep it or decrease it, although they cannot raise it, he said.

Bankston said if the City Council decides to keep the raise in January, he feels the $3,400 salary increase for all five council members, who are responsible for a general fund budget of nearly $30 million, is insignificant. What’s more, the City Council held off for two years after the state law was enacted before voting on a raise, he said

“It has not cost anyone, relative to services,” he said. “(This is) reflective of a council that’s been very disciplined in how we budget, how we set up our resources, how we maintain (financial) balances.”

Camarillo has not laid off any employees or reduced their hours, but neither has the city raised salary schedules for its 130 employees since 2007. That is until now. City employees have received merit raises within their pay range during that time, but Bankston said the city plans to raise employees’ salary ranges by 2 percent in the upcoming year.

Raises will still be based on performance, he said.

In the 2010-11 budget a line item for the City Council shows $666,000. Bankston said the figure is misleading because the line item also includes money for the city’s Community Service Grant program, Youth Employment Service, membership for council members to represent the city in state and regional associations and other miscellaneous expenses in the City Council fund.

At least $300,000 of the money in the account goes for city hall operating costs, he said.

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