By JOSH FRIEDMAN
Despite the city’s distressing financial situation, the San Luis Obispo City Council unanimously voted to approved significant pay raises for two management positions. Over the past 15 years, the city’s unfunded pension liabilities have gone from $0 to more than $150 million.
Last month, the SLO City Council approved pay increases for both City Attorney Christine Dietrick and City Manager Derek Johnson, as well as a nearly $11,000 cash bonus for the latter.
At its April 16 meeting, the council gave Dietrick a 5 percent raise, which will bring her base salary to $206,622. Dietrick collects about $300,000 a year in pay and benefits.
Since hiring Dietrick in 2010, the city council has awarded her at least five raises. Dietrick’s base pay has increased about $50,000 over her nearly decade-long tenure as city attorney.
Johnson received a 3 percent raise, which will bring his base salary to $218,374. Additionally, the council granted Johnson a one-time bonus allowing him to cash out 107 hours, or $10,900, of unused vacation time.
The council elevated Johnson to the position of city manager in the fall of 2017. That year, he received about $230,000 in salary and benefits, but Johnson worked most of 2017 at a much lower level of pay than he currently earns.
Johnson’s bonus combined with the two raises will add $14,000 to the current fiscal year’s budget, according to a city staff report. The raises will add $16,200 in yearly expenses to future city budgets.
The council approved the raises and bonus despite the city recently incurring a multi-million dollar budget shortfall due to rising pension costs. The staff report states the council considered several factors, including job performance; the desire to keep Dietrick and Johnson; and the fiscal sustainability of the city in deciding to give the two top executives raises.