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Tuesday, March 26 , 2019, 2:12 pm | Partly Cloudy 64º


Public Engagement Commission Favors Salary-Increase Ballot Measure for Goleta City Council

As Sherri Bliss, vice chair of Goleta’s newly created Public Engagement Commission, described it, “salary is a huge motivator.”

The seven-member panel met this week and concluded that increasing council salaries could spike residents’ interest in running for and serving on the Goleta City Council.

Commissioners recommended that the city base salary increases on Goleta’s median household income, and put the wages in effect in 2020.

The City Council in April asked the Public Engagement Commission to brainstorm recommendations on a ballot measure including the salary amount, how to handle inflation, and when the pay hike, if approved, should go into effect.

The median household income for Santa Barbara County in 2017 was $53,950, Deputy City Manager Carmen Nichols said, and the United States Census Bureau predicts the median household income for Goleta was $81,398 in 2016.

As a general law city — not a charter city — state law allows for Goleta’s City Council member salaries to be increased through a voter-approved ballot measure.

The Public Engagement Commission recommendation will go back to the City Council, which decides whether or not to move forward with a salary-increase ballot measure. 

“We believe as a commission that a higher salary and a livable wage as part of that salary encourages residents to participate in government and will increase participation,” Bliss said during her motion to commissioners.

All council members currently make $7,020 a year, according to Nichols. Council members additionally are eligible to receive medical, dental and vision insurance coverage through the city.

The commission's recommendation for the salary amount was to set the mayor's salary higher, at 90 percent of the median household income for Goleta, and the council members' salaries at 75 percent of the median household income for the city.

Commission Chair Pedro Paz discussed the commitment on working-class representatives.

“If they work part-time or take time off of their job, that is a cost,” said Paz, noting his four-year service on the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education. “There’s a lot of commitment in elected office.”

In addition to attending City Council meetings, members of the governing board are responsible for hiring and evaluating the city manager and city attorney, approving the budget, deciding policy issues, and speaking with constituents.

“On average, the Goleta council members can work 28 hours a week estimated,” Nichols said. “There are times when it’s 40-plus hours (a week).”

Commissioner Beth Schneider said the option to hike salary following the 2018 election could allow time of personal decisions for planning.

“The public would begin to start to see that it’s a possible option to run for office,” Schneider said. “Our interest is to make it possible for someone to put all their time and energy into worrying about Goleta instead of worrying about where they will get their next meal or pay rent.”

Goleta’s City Council has five members who serve four-year terms, with no term limits. Two of the last three elections for Goleta City Council members were uncontested races. 

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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