Arroyo Grande Council votes to raise mayor’s pay 97 percent

November 14, 2019

Mayor Caren Ray


Following pleas from the public not to raise their salaries, the Arroyo Grande City Council voted 3-2 on Tuesday to give themselves a 60 percent increase and Mayor Caren Ray-Russom a 97 percent increase in pay. [Cal Coast Times]

Ray-Russom, Councilman Keith Storton and Councilwoman Kristen Barneich voted in favor of raising the stipend from $405 to $648 for the four council members and to $798 for the mayor. Ray-Russom said she sought the stipend increase because other city councils were receiving more money

During public comment, residents rebutted Ray-Russom’s argument, noting the council’s benefit package has increased by more than 60 percent. The councils medical benefits are the second highest in the county.

Sandra Bochicchio voiced her anger at the child-like behavior of council members.

“How dare you even think about giving yourself a raise when we are in a financial hole,” Bochicchio said. “You have done research and presented evidence of other city official compensation. But this is like little Johnny going to his parents, ‘Mommy, mommy, mommy, I want this toy because all my friends have it.’ Just because Tommy has that toy does not mean that you need to have it.”

The city is currently experiencing a $3.5 million shortfall for infrastructure repairs. As a result, city officials are considering raising water and wastewater rates, and initiating a stormwater management tax.

Ray-Russom said in the next 15 years she would have to replace her roof, which she is not setting money aside for. She then compared the city not having money set aside for needed capital improvements as the same as her not saving money for a new roof.

“We have a balanced budget,” Ray-Russom said. “The reason that we are asking or potentially looking at other things, is when you hear that, next I want you to be listening and hearing to that roof savings.”

Both Ray-Russom and Storton said that the raises were needed to attract a younger and diverse council.

Barneich argued that she was not receiving her entire stipend, because the city was keeping part of it to pay for her family’s monthly insurance premiums, on top of the $1,707 the city is already paying for Barneich’s family’s insurance costs.

Both Councilwoman Lan George and Councilman Jimmy Paulding voted no, saying it was the wrong time to raise council pay.



There will be TWO more opportunities to stop this increase. There will be an ordinance on a future (soon) council agenda and second reading (2 weeks later) of that ordinance at a subsequent agenda. Stay involved and pack those chambers! Continue the emails, calls, and contact with the council, perhaps you can flip one.

Some of the comments by staff were hard to swallow; the City Manager stated that the budget is balanced — is correct, this two-year budget is “balanced”. It’s the next two-year budget that will be interesting. With the higher cost for Five Cities Fire Authority infrastructure needs, water, sewer rate increases, Brisco bond measure and a sales tax on the horizon, saying you’re within budget doesn’t mean the city is in good fiscal health.

The comment by Storton, “I want to encourage other people to run who aren’t retired,” What an odd thing to say when, you, Keith Storton, are the only retired member on the council. For that matter, the last retired council members that were on that council were Tony Ferrara and Joe Costello — FIVE years ago.

Lan George said over and over she didn’t want to implement the stipend increase until 2022, she said that was when her term was up. Funny thing is, her term is actually up in 2020. Remember? She was appointed to fulfill Ray’s council seat after she became mayor.

Ray’s ‘roof fund’ analogy didn’t come off as planned. She seems to forget that the common ratepayer doesn’t have a historic home that receives tax breaks that others don’t. Her situation is different from most Arroyo Grande.

Barniech’s crazy-talk about not getting the full stipend because “they” take it for her insurance contribution. Maybe you should give up the insurance or a smaller package Kristen — then you’ll get your full stipend.

Paulding’s stance, while I agree with it, was predictable for someone preparing to run for higher office.


The cost of “ruling” is tied to keeping up with the Jones’.

Next they will need increases for city services, to keep up with and justified by a neighbor.

How can you tell when a politician is lying?

“Their lips are moving.”


Lol. They said 60. She says 97, but only for me.


To attract new people how about term limits, once you serve two terms as either mayor or council combined that’s it say for ten years.


>> Both Ray-Russom and Storton said that the raises were needed to attract a younger and diverse council. <<

If that is the case then Ray-Russon and Storton should both decline THEIR raises, because they're already onboard, and they knew what the pay was going in. I wonder just what they mean by "diverse"?


I just read on November 9, 2019 that they were going to suck a 60% raise in salary but, in reality that was their usual smoke and mirrors to rob us for even more. On one hand we hear we’re facing a budget deficit whilst our greedy mayor announces we’re on a balanced budget.

Recall the three that voted themselves a bloated raise!


Caren Ray Russom must be using the same contractor for the Brisco Road Interchange as she does for her roof repairs.

According to Transparent California as a teacher in Santa Maria in 2017 her salary was $111,937.00 + $32,887.00 in benefits = $144,827.00 in total. Plus $4860 in council pay.

Something is definitely “through the roof”.


Of course they raised their pay. Hey don’t care that we are in a financial hole. The city council is mostly Democrat socialists. They want to bankrupt cities & states so the people will revolt and dictators can walk in and take over. They only do as they want, never as the voters want.

VOTE them out!


…They want to bankrupt cities & states so the people will revolt and dictators can walk in and take over…..Hmmm not quite. Paranoid much?

Understand this:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

I don’t think you have a good grasp on what motivates your political rivals. Please continue to delude yourself that your belief is accurate.


Clickbait headline. The numbers the percentages are based upon are very low.

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