Thursday, July 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Fair pay and a decent workplace

By
From page A14 | September 22, 2013 |

At the Sept. 10 Davis City Council meeting, one agenda item had us all smiling. The item under discussion was pay raises for the council members, and they each talked a little about many aspects of the issue. They all seemed embarrassed to talk about it, as though they were caught reaching into the cookie jar, but they were preaching to the choir. If they had asked for a vote right there of the audience and staff attendees, I’m sure it would have been an overwhelming yes for fair pay raises.

Why the council members were so hesitant on the subject, I cannot understand. Their last raise was 13 years ago, and their annual salary, at just over $8,000, is an insult to them. They make decisions on multimillion-dollar projects, guard with passion the Davis electorate’s mandates, and have to have another regular job to survive and bring up a family, which they miraculously somehow don’t let interfere with their dedicated work for the city.

And they aren’t even given an office! Or, more correctly, they all five share a cubby-hole briefly at odd hours, even with little coordination between them (other than self-help) to use the “office.”

Perhaps the policymakers thought the council job should be just an extension of the commissions that advise the council on all matters, and would work fine for a retired person with an annuity to live on. Thank God we have always had dynamic young people like our present council to steer this wonderful city on its journey. Why can’t we pay them accordingly?

This city prides itself at being a cut above the average small city, so why can’t we give our council members an equivalent salary and workplace?

Francis Resta

Davis

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Discussion | 7 comments

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  • Rich RifkinSeptember 19, 2013 - 7:56 pm

    "Their last raise was 13 years ago, and their annual salary, at just over $8,000, is an insult to them." ..... That number is quite misleading. They each get a health benefit worth about $22,000. And, if I am not mistaken, I believe they can put any amount of that they do not use into a PERS savings account, which they can later draw out plus interest. So it is fairer to say that their current compensation is around $30,000. ...... I am not arguing, by the way, that this increase in pay is unjustified. However, one speaker at the meeting that night--Matt Williams of El Macero--noted that the increase in pay amounts to "just $30,000" for the whole Council. That, I told Matt, who was sitting next to me at the meeting, is not as small amount of money as he implied. I told him that $30,000 happens to be the exact amount of money that the city now estimates it will cost to trim the walnut trees on Russell Blvd and remove the mistletoe. Not so important, you say? It was just such a lack of maintenance--due in part because the Supervisors are paid much more than are city council members--that caused the County to recently destroy every last walnut tree on Russell from the Davis City limit to Cactus Corners. ...... In case you don't know, or don't care, those trees are a city landmark. They were planted by Jacob Eugene LaRue as part of a state highway beautification grant. And the ones left are now about 130 years old. Keeping them alive and well, to my mind, is far more important than giving members of the city council office space.

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  • Wait! What??!September 21, 2013 - 10:10 am

    Wait... what?! The City Council members get an additional $22,000 a year as a health benefit? Is that $22,000 taxable as income or is it tax free? (1) Being on the City Council isn't supposed to be a full time job, so why are they getting benefits? Most part time workers don't get benefits if they are expected to work few than a certain amount of hours per week. (2) If that $22,000 is meant for them to buy health insurance, where are they getting their insurance , Tiffany's? According to the Affordable Care Act , personal health insurance costs about $650 a month. (3) Back to #1, if the Council members have full time jobs (which is one of their complaints about the number of hours they are putting towards their City Council responsibilities), they must have health insurance through their employers or buy it independently if they are self-employed. I wish there was more transparency in this city about what we, the tax payers, are paying public employees. Stockton, move over. Davis is coming up quickly.

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  • Rich RifkinSeptember 21, 2013 - 3:14 pm

    "The City Council members get an additional $22,000 a year as a health benefit?" ...... To be fair, I was estimating. In looking it up just now, it is actually a bit less--$20,861.28 this year. But it will be $23,172.84 for 2014. The policy is for the Kaiser Family Plan, which, more-less, is what we give to all city employees (though I do not believe to temporary ones). The KFP covers up to three people: the member, a spouse and a dependent; or, I believe, the member and two eligible dependents. ...... "Is that $22,000 taxable as income or is it tax free?" Yes, just like any medical benefit is to an employee. ...... One more detail I need to clear up. I was wrong to suggest that members of the Council can put all of their unused benefit into a savings plan with CalPERS. These plans are called 457 deferred savings accounts. In 2012, the Council adopted a new ordinance (now in effect) which says that for members of the Council who choose to not accept any medical benefit, the City will deposit $6,000 per year in a 457 deferred savings account for them. ...... Another thing to keep in my regarding Council compensation: If they serve long enough to qualify for a CalPERS retirement and vest with the City of Davis, they will get a lifetime retiree medical benefit. No one now on the Council will get this. And most who serve on the Council never would qualify. But it is an expensive benefit for those who are elected a few times.

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  • MartinSeptember 22, 2013 - 10:50 pm

    The majority of oaks trees that were removed along Russell Blvd are outside of The Davis boundary line; so, their inclusion in a discussion of city council salaries is of no significant relevance. That being said, such a salary increase seems out of line given the fiscal cutbacks and impacts that the city has endured over last few years.

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  • Rich RifkinSeptember 23, 2013 - 3:23 pm

    "The majority of oaks trees that were removed along Russell Blvd are outside of The Davis boundary line; so, their inclusion in a discussion of city council salaries is of no significant relevance." .... Martin, not just 'a majority' of the trees which were destroyed last month were outside the city, 100% of them were. But you seem to not understand why they were destroyed: The County failed to maintain them. Those County Walnut trees were planted at the same time as those in the City. The County lost all of its Walnuts on Russell because the County spent that money on higher pay and benefits for Supervisors. Davis has, up to now, done a much better job taking care of our Walnuts. But we are now short $30,000 to trim them and remove the mistletoe. And it happens that the increase in pay to the Council will be $30,000 per year (for all five combined). The pay raise may be justified. But it's a lot more important to me that we preserve our heritage.

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  • September 23, 2013 - 4:23 pm

    Rich, I understand all of those points. The city maintained the trees that were within their boundaries and the county didn't maintain the ones along the path that were not in Davis city limits. So, I don't see the connection between pay raises and tree maintenance. I think it's a shame that the county dropped the ball on this one. I bike out that bath almost every day and the loss is tremendous. One can't help but notice the "Welcome to Davis" sign is the cutoff point between the devastation and properly maintained trees.

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  • September 23, 2013 - 4:39 pm

    Rich, I agree that raises are out of order. However, I don't see the connection between city council raises and a county expenditure for maintenance. One can't help but notice the distinct pavement difference on that path at very spot where the City of Davis begins on Russell and the missing trees to the west of that point. It seems that the county maintains the road surface of the bike path better than its historic tree line.

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