As reported earlier this month on TurlockCityNews.com, Turlock City Councilmembers recently scheduled a discussion of a pay raise for the Mayor, Councilmembers, and the Treasurer. But after much deliberation at a July meeting, the Council decided to put over the item regarding a raise in pay for its serving members until January.
TurlockCityNews.com waited to report the coverage until we had readers’ questions answered. Do councilmembers receive health coverage? Are any of them “double dipping?" Some of the answers are black and white, while others are more complicated.
While some councilmembers were in support of at least electing members to a committee for pay review, others felt that this is not the time for pay increases or even reviews, especially with labor negotiations in the works.
The scheduled item, authored by City Manager Roy Wasden, was a request to appoint a five member Council Compensation Task Force to review current compensation for the Mayor, Treasurer, and City Council. The idea of the task force though, was originally Mayor John Lazar’s, and appointing a task force would mean that the City Council would not be reviewing their own compensation.
First presented at the May 13 City Council meeting, the item addresses concerns for the Council’s current compensation in effect to time spent as well as in comparison to Council pay statewide.
Currently, the Mayor and City Council members are elected to serve four year terms, with a monthly stipend of $500 as is authorized under State Law for the “time they contribute serving their community and fulfilling their constitutional duties.”
Councilmembers do not receive health benefits, as they do not participate in the City’s open enrollment plan. Their pay is not negotiated through contracts, but stated through a city ordinance.
According to Kellie Weaver, Turlock City Clerk, Councilmembers, along with their $500 pay per month, are eligible to participate in the following programs listed on Resolution No. 2010-146:
- Deferred compensation: Elected officials are eligible to participate in the City’s 457 Deferred Compensation program.
- Retirement: Elected officials are eligible to participate in the Public Employees Retirement System. The City pays the Employee’s 7% PERS contribution as well as the Employer’s contribution. Retirement benefits are based on the highest one-year of service. Effective October 1, 2000, the PERS formula changed from 2% @ 60 to 2% @ 55. Elected officials are covered by the Level 3 PERS Survivor Benefit. Elected officials who choose to not participate in the PERS Retirement System, are eligible to receive the equivalent dollar amount of the Employer’s and Employee’s contribution into their individual 457 Deferred Compensation Plan account.
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP): Elected officials are eligible to participate in the Employee Assistance Program provided by the City.
- Long-Term Disability: Elected officials are eligible to participate in the City’s Long-Term Disability program in accordance with the Turlock Management Employees Schedule of Benefits.
- Term Life Insurance: Elected officials are provided with a City paid Term Life Insurance policy in an amount of one and one-half times their annual salary. In conjunction with the City’s Health Insurance Plan, there will be a $5,000 death benefit.
Weaver explained that the money for the Deferred Compensation program is the elected official’s own money that comes out of their paycheck. Most of the employees max out their Deferred Compensation.
The City Clerk also explained that City Treasurer Diana Lewis, who also serves as the Technical Services Manager at the City of Turlock, is compensated separately for both roles.
This is because her role as City Treasurer is an elected position. Like other elected City officials, she receives the same pay and optional programs as Councilmembers plus compensation and benefits from her Technical Services Manager position as Councilmembers would from their individual jobs, except that she works for the City of Turlock.
Weaver explained that she cannot provide who chooses to take advantage of which programs because those details are not public record. For example, some of the services provide mental health and financial counseling.
At the July 8 Council meeting, Councilmember Bill DeHart, who has already announced his intention for re-election in November, expressed his disagreement with seeking a raise in pay before the “troops are taken care of.”
DeHart explained that at the original notion for the pay review he registered concern, and his concern has not subsided.
“It goes back again to my heritage with military service, where we made sure as lieutenants, as captains, as majors that our troops were taken care of first,” said DeHart. “We’re right in the middle of contract negotiations with our labor units, we have a city manager and a city attorney considerations, and we’ve asked the citizens of Turlock to consider (Measures A and B), we’ve raised water rates, we’ve adjusted garbage, and I just think it’s, at this point, premature for this Council to consider this issue – even to the extent of appointing a special committee to assess our status and where we would like to go. I feel very strongly about this. I don’t think that right now is the appropriate time to do that.”
Councilmember Amy Bublak, who joined the Council over phone conference, also made sure to speak on the matter as she, like DeHart, was also under the impression that they were going to wait to complete the pay review.
Bublak added that she thought the Council had agreed it was “substantially the wrong time” because of labor negotiations.
“I think that somehow we moved it along and made it again because there were three people that wanted to,” said Bublak. “I don’t know that, but it just seems like we’re supposed to take care of our negotiations and make sure that we’re spending correctly, and this is six years running that we’ve spent more than we’re bringing in so I’m concerned about even taking the time to look into this.”
Councilmember Steven Nascimento concurred with DeHart and Bublak, agreeing that even gathering a committee at this time would still be premature.
In documents addressing the request prior to the meeting, the Council argued that although the job is considered part-time, elected members are often committing more hours than that. Members added at the July 8 meeting that Lazar has committed considerably more time in his term than was expected of past mayors, and he should be acknowledged for that time.
The report preceding the meeting also noted appropriately competitive pay will encourage any qualified citizens to run for office, instead of only “wealthy individuals and retirees.”
Currently, Councilmembers’ personal careers are as follows:
- DeHart: Independent Printing and Publishing Consultant DeHart’s Media Services Inc.
- Nascimento: District Director for California’s 12th Senate District, AlexisNasc Digital Marketing
- Bublak: Modesto Police Officer
- Forrest White: Retired CEO of the San Joaquin County Fair
- Lazar: Broker-Associate Century 21 M&M Associates
- Lewis: City of Turlock Technical Services Manager
“I think that the outline of responsibilities of Mayor and the responsibilities of Council needs to be noted,” DeHart said. “I do believe that the amount of time that Mayor Lazar has spent has been considerably more than should be expected for the amount of compensation. Unfortunately I still find myself in a position of, ‘How do we even discuss it while labor negotiations are taking place?’ It should be recognized however that the Mayor, whether it’s Mayor Lazar currently or the future mayor starting in January, the amount of hours, the time commitment, the blood sweat and tears, if you will, are certainly something that should be recognized to a little higher level than they currently do.”
The discussion of a pay raise was tabled by the Council until January.
DeHart said that if re–elected, he would support the request for review by an outside force at that time. With Turlockers frustrated by what they feel are sometimes quiet agreements or questionable motives, Gary Soiseth, Mayoral candidate for the 2014 General Election, announced back in April that he will maintain a transparent campaign. Soiseth promised to limit individual donations to $1,500 and limit farm and business donations to $3,000.
Candidate for Congress of the 10th Congressional District Michael Eggman (D-Turlock) also recently addressed pay, promising a “No Perks Pledge” as part of his platform for election.
According to a release, Eggman will continue this idea of “work not perks,” placing it in the ongoing agenda should he be elected. Eggman claims he wants to “lead by example” in the Central Valley.
“No Perks Pledge is a common sense first step to cut spending and getting our fiscal house in order,” said Eggman.
By signing the “No Perks Pledge,” Eggman promises to work in Congress for the following:
- No automatic taxpayer-funded pay raises.
- No budget, no pay. (Meaning if legislators do not put together a budget or choose to shut down government, he will abstain from pay.)
- Make legislators disclose votes for tax breaks that personally benefit them.
- No taxpayer-funded pensions for members of Congress, only Social Security.
- No taxpayer-funded campaign mailers.
- No lobbyist-funded travel.
- No taxpayer-funded members-only gym, hair salon, or barbershop.