The Davis City Council voted unanimously Thursday, with Councilman Brett Lee absent, to raise the proposed salary range for a new city manager by $36,000 to $60,000.
The move came at a special meeting that required only 24-hour notice by law, which the city surpassed by 15 minutes. No members of the public were in the audience.
City staff met with recruiters earlier this week and realized the pay point for the city manager position is turning away potential applicants, and with the council set to take a few weeks’ break on Monday, a special meeting was called to address the problem.
The city had been getting no luck in attracting qualified candidates over the past few months with its annual salary and benefits package of $188,000. The new range voted in Thursday boosts the pay to $217,200 to $241,300, including benefits.
Nearby cities like Woodland and West Sacramento offer more money than the previous salary paid to City Manager Steve Pinkerton, who moved on in April to become general manager of the Incline Village General Improvement District. Woodland pays Paul Navazio, Davis’ previous city manager, $191,760. West Sacramento pays $227,106.
The city gathered data from the Economic Research Institute Relocation Assessor that compared the cost of living in Davis with surrounding communities. In Fairfield, which offers the most comparable cost of living to Davis — at 4 percent higher, according to the institute — the city manager is paid $232,831, including perks and benefits.
In Vacaville, only slightly higher in cost of living than Davis at 4.7 percent more, the city manager earns $277,109, with other compensation included.
A 2012 salary survey by the state controller’s office showed West Sacramento paying $262,884 for its city manager at the time. That is just north of what the same survey said Sacramento paid for its city manager at the time, at $261,147.
So who is paying about the same rate Davis was offering? Pinole paid $187,995 in 2012, according to the state survey. Fresno paid $186,994 in 2012.
“At the end of the day (the salaries in nearby cities) reflect the market you’re competing in,” said Doug Johnson, vice president of the city’s hired recruitment firm, Ralph Andersen and Associates.
City Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson said it’s important to compare “apples to apples” in Yolo County.
Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis suggested that the city keep $188,000 as its lower range, but Johnson said candidates are taking their own surveys of nearby cities to see what is a good offer and they could get spooked by the lower range.
City Councilman Lucas Frerichs said it’s clear that Davis is the lowest-paying city in the region, especially with the high demands it places on city managers.
“Any city manager, in my mind, is a 24/7 city manager,” he said. “Whoever will be city manager will be facing such a wide range of tasks.”
Plus, the council agreed the new city manager would need to live in Davis, so cost of living is an important factor.
“We’re making sure we give the community the best that we can,” Swanson said.
Johnson said at the city’s $188,000 range, “I think it’s very unlikely that you would get a candidate coming here because of cost of living,” he said, unless that candidate is moving up to be a first-time manager.
Mayor Dan Wolk said he recognizes it might seem odd to some members of the public that the city could raise the pay of the city manager after it had pushed through new taxes and wrung concessions from its employees. The city is due to discuss further budget cuts this fall and is mulling a potential parcel tax to place on the ballot next year.
Nonetheless, Wolk said the decision to hire a city manager is one of the most important that a city council can make.
“To get good people, salaries are a critical part of that,” he said.
— Reach Dave Ryan at email@example.com or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews.