The council passed the measure 5-0 to amend the ordinance that regulates council member’s pay. Regular council members would receive a $100 a month bump in compensation while the mayor would receive a $200 a month raise. Currently city council members receive $200 a month, while the mayor receives $300; the council and mayor’s pay will now jump to $300 and $500 respectively. Raises will not be taken into effect until the next election of each council seat, meaning that current council members would have to be re-elected before the pay increase will take effect. Newly elected council members will now be under the new pay scale.
Council members also discussed a provision in the ordinance to add health insurance benefits for council members. The provision was removed and will be discussed at a future date.
Councilman Dominic Farinha spoke passionately about offering healthcare benefits for councilmembers. He said 60 percent of councils across the state already do so.
“There has been a paradigm shift in the way the public thinks about healthcare,” he said. “Health, regardless of age or condition, is important.”
Farinha said he didn’t know the economic condition of his colleagues and said it wasn’t any of his business, but wanted to make sure everyone’s health was covered.
Mayor Luis Molina and Councilwoman Sheree Lustgarten didn’t comment specifically whether they would support the healthcare provision when it came back up. Both said they wouldn’t need it for themselves or their family.
Calling the city council job more than part time, Lustgarten said she supported the bump in pay.
“We’re meeting a little more than three times a month now, it’s a little more than part-time,” she said. “We should raise the per-diem,” she said. “I wouldn’t need the healthcare myself, but I understand. There are other options for getting healthcare.”
City Councilwoman Deborah Novelli said she supported the raise but was less supportive of the health benefits.
“This is a very heated topic,” she said of healthcare. “But it is not my business whether one person has it or doesn’t have it.”
She said she wanted a better cost analysis from staff before making a decision on healthcare benefits.
The topic originally came before the council in January of 2012.
The council directed staff at that time to come back with a full report on health benefits at a future meeting. It was clear early on, however, in that January 18, 2012 meeting that there would be disagreement on the matter.
City Councilman Dominic Farinha, who placed an item about health insurance on the agenda, said he simply wanted to explore the idea. But both Mayor Luis Molina and Councilwoman Deborah Novelli registered their initial disapproval.
“I’m not in favor of insurance coverage for council members,” Molina said two years ago. “I think it sends the wrong message.”
Novelli said then that she did not favor such benefits at a time when the city is facing economic challenges.
If just one council member with no dependents enrolled, it could cost the city $10,000 to $15,000 a year, City Manager Rod Butler told the council two years ago. If all five council members enrolled in the system with dependents, the plan would cost as much as $80,000 to $100,000 annually, which would come directly out of the city’s general fund, he said.
Current figures were not made available and councilmembers asked for a cost report of the item at a later date.
Nick Rappley can be reached at email@example.com or 568-9975.