Raises pending for SLO council, manager and attorney
April 11, 2014
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
Each member of the San Luis Obispo City Council, as well as the city manager and city attorney could receive pay raises in the coming weeks.
This week the council is holding closed session meetings in which they are considering bumps in pay for both City Manager Katie Lichtig and City Attorney Christine Dietrick. Next week, the council will choose whether to grant themselves raises of up to $6,000 a year.
Lichtig is currently in her fifth year as city manager. She has never received a raise in San Luis Obispo, and she did take a cut in benefits after asking her staff to reduce its pay. Still, Lichtig makes more than $300,000 annually in total compensation.
Dietrick makes nearly $250,000 in total compensation. She received raises each of the last two years, even though the city lost a costly lawsuit and its legal liability insurance expenses spiked.
If the council chooses to increase the pay of either Lichtig or Dietrick, it must do so in open session.
At the upcoming April 15 council meeting, city staff will recommend that council member salaries increase from $1,000 a month to $1,200 a month and that the mayor’s salary increase from $1,200 a month to $1,500. The recommendation comes from a council compensation committee consisting of a former councilman, a personnel board representative and three members of the public.
Under the proposal, the annual base salaries of council members would increase from $12,000 to $14,400. The mayor’s annual salary would increase from $14,400 to $18,000.
The compensation committee is also suggesting that the council grant itself the option to opt out of taking health benefits and instead receive additional pay. The proposal would allow council members to receive $200 a month, or $2,400 annually, if they choose to forgo their medical, dental and vision coverage.
Including the health benefit opt out pay, total council member compensation would increase $4,800, and the mayor’s total pay would increase $6,000 under the current proposal.
Of the current council members, only Councilwoman Kathy Smith and Councilman John Ashbaugh received more than $1,000 worth of health benefits last year. Smith’s 2013 health plan cost $5,772 and Ashbaugh’s cost $15,204.
Ashbuagh was the highest compensated council member in San Luis Obispo County last year. Including regional board pay, he received nearly $30,000 in total compensation
In January, Ashbaugh told CalCoastNews that he would oppose an increase in council pay if the compensation committee recommended one. He previously took a pay cut proportional to the one city staff accepted.
Last year, Mayor Jan Marx received $17,933.90 in total compensation from the city of San Luis Obispo, according to figures compiled by the human resources department. Smith received $20,607.64 in total pay, and Councilman Dan Carpenter received $11,410.96. Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson, who joined the council in July, received $6,939.97.
In Feb. 2013, Andrew Carter left the council to become city administrator of Guadalupe. In his final three full years on the council, Carter averaged about $30,000 a year in total compensation.
When polled by the city on whether or not he found council pay to be appropriate, he suggested that council members receive about $40,000 a year in base salaries. Carter recommended that the city pay its mayor $50,000 to $60,000 a year in base salary.
Carter wrote on a questionnaire that he spent at least 40 hours a week on council business and, at times, 60 hours or more a week. Other past council members and mayors who filled out the questionnaire stated on average that they would spend 20 to 30 hours a week conducting council business.
In addition to proposing the boost in council pay, the compensation committee also recommended increases for planning commissioners and members of the Architectural Review Commission. The compensation committee suggested raising pay for planning and architectural review commissioners from $50 a meeting to $60 a meeting.