The Calabasas City Council members voted 4 to 1 last week in favor of raising their monthly salaries to $976, an increase of $127.
City Councilmember Mary Sue Maurer voted against the pay raise saying it wouldn’t be right to boost personal income while a city-operated school program is being cut.
Before discussing salaries at its Jan. 10 meeting, the City Council heard about operations at the city-run Klubhouse Preschool program, which used to have 12 full-time teachers but now only has seven. The 20-year-old program has five positions that have not been filled.
The city spent about $400,000 in 2016 to subsidize Klubhouse, more than twice the expected cost, after a drop in enrollment.
“While I understand that we have the right to increase our salaries to bring it up to the standard set across the state,” Maurer said, “I think it’s morally wrong when we are taking benefits away from the lowest wage earning, all-women teachers in our pre-school program.”
Mayor Fred Gaines said Klubhouse enrollment has improved. Until now the program operated at a loss, but with its reduced staff, it has moved into profitability.
Calabasas Chief Financial Officer Gary Lysik said California law allows municipal councils to raise their salaries by 5 percent a year, and the last salary increase for the Calabasas City Council was in 2015 when it was raised to $849, the current rate. Prior to that council members were paid $566 a month, a rate established in 2004.
“When you do 5 percent each year it really isn’t a big jump, but if you do it all at the same time then it is,” Lysik said. “There’s no real push to have this thing done; it’s just that it’s been three years and we don’t want this to continue for another 10 like it did in the past and have some large number. It’s just going from $849 to $976.”
“For all our city employees we’ve done cost-of-living and step adjustments,” Gaines said.
“We did have a period of time over the recession years where we were not able to do that but we’ve caught up and done that for all our city employees. Every few years we do this when all the city employees are getting those regular adjustments we do it for the council as well. That’s been the history and I fully support doing it here,” the mayor said.
In addition to their salary for attending two council meetings a month and performing committee work and public appearances, Calabasas City Council members receive a yearly stipend of $5,000, which can be put toward attending conferences, training sessions and charitable causes.
They also receive health benefits, which will continue after they’ve left the City Council if they’ve served at least five years.
The same coverage applies to retired senior staff members. Mayor Gaines said there are fewer than 10 people currently receiving health benefits courtesy of the city.
“In the 25-year history of the city I think we’ve had two or three senior staff retire. There’s five or six council members and two or three former city managers or city directors,” Gaines said.
“There’s like less than 10 people but over time that number will grow. It’s such a small percentage, and it affects so few people that it’s not been something that has been thought to be a concern. We’re not expecting dozens and dozens of people to be added to it,” Gaines said.