Rather than approving across-the-board 10 percent raises, as proposed by a special committee, the San Luis Obispo City Council decided Tuesday to increase the mayor’s base pay by 15 percent while raising council member salaries by 2 percent.
The council voted 4-1 for the pay raises. Mayor Heidi Harmon, who stood to benefit the most financially from the move, did not cast the dissenting vote. Rather, Harmon voted in favor of her pay raise, and Councilman Dan Rivoire was the lone dissenter.
“Ultimately it’s not for ourselves, right?” Harmon said. “Just like everything else we do, is it the right thing to do or not, regardless?”
Harmon said, even following the raises, the mayoral and council positions will not be compensated with livable wages.
“These are positions that demand a lot and they deserve to be recognized in that way I think,” Harmon said.
When the raises take effect next year, the mayor’s salary will rise to slightly more than $20,000. That does not include benefits, which can amount to more than $10,000 in additional compensation.
The mayor and council members positions are part-time positions, though some of the officeholders often bemoan the amount of time they choose to spend on city related matters. On Tuesday, Councilman Aaron Gomez described the mayor’s job as a “beyond full-time gig.” Gomez also said it is politically untenable to give yourself a raise, but then voted for increasing council member compensation.
Other council members said it is necessary to raise their own pay so there can be a greater diversity of candidates seeking office in SLO. Multiple council members said they would be “kicking the can down the road” by not approving the raises.
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, a council compensation committee recommended raising the base pay of all council members, including the mayor, by 10 percent. The committee also recommended slight increases to the stipends that planning and architectural review commissioners receive.
During the meeting, Councilwoman Andy Pease suggested a 15 percent increase for the mayor and 2 percent increases for council members. The council voted for Pease’s motion, which also included $10 stipend increases for members of the architectural review commission and planning commission, as the compensation committee had suggested.