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Carlsbad council salary increases placed on November ballot

CARLSBAD — There will be one ballot measure up for a citywide vote in November.

During its July 28 meeting, the Carlsbad City Council approved placing a measure asking about council compensation.

The proposed ordinance would tie council salary increases to the San Diego Regional Consumer Price Index, allowing the body to approve compensation adjustments in January of each year yet prohibiting the council from enacting retroactive increases for years the council waived an adjustment.

A “yes” vote would not allow the council, or any future councils, to pass any other compensatory action (minus the SDRPI increase) unless it’s passed by a citywide vote. In short, the council would not be able to pass an ordinance allowing for any raises over the index.

Cindie McMahon, assistant city attorney, said the issue is a lingering item from the municipal code subcommittee. They encountered the section dealing with council compensation as the item was not brought before the council in January 2019 and this year, as is typically done, she said.

In 2018, a subcommittee of former councilmen Michael Schumacher and Mark Packard established that any council raises were to be approved by a citywide vote.

“The reason this was originally discussed was that it’s very difficult for a City Council to decide how much to give themselves,” Councilman Keith Blackburn said during the July 14 meeting. “They decided on San Diego Price Index and leave it at that, so our council doesn’t have to deal with it.”

The council can waive their cost-of-living increases, and they did as much as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Blackburn said he was torn between giving himself a raise but not to part-time employees for the city.

Councilmembers currently make $2,052.17 per month, the mayor $2,152.17, and increases shall not exceed the San Diego Regional Consumer Price Index, according to the municipal code. The code was amended in 2018 and includes cost-of-living increases for the council.

The price index, meanwhile, was 3.4% in 2018 and 2.4% in 2019, according to the staff report.

Adjustments to compensation must be made or waived in January of each year. If the monthly payments are waived, the City Council cannot retroactively enact increases for the years in which salaries were waived under the new ordinance.

If the City Council were to adopt an ordinance adjusting council compensation to reflect changes in the San Diego Regional Consumer Price Index for 2018 and 2019, the City Council members’ monthly compensation would increase from $2,052.17 to $2,121.94 and the mayor’s monthly compensation would increase from $2,152.17 to $2,221.94, according to the staff report.

Total salaries are $25,826.04 per year for the mayor and $24,626.04 per year for the rest of the City Council. The mayor receives an additional $100 per month under city code.

The mayor and City Council also receive a monthly car allowance of $450 and $300 per month, respectively, in addition to up to another $525 per month for specific committee meetings.

The total adjustments to the salaries would be $4,946 in 2018 and $3,647 in 2019, according to the staff report.

The cost of adding the measure to the ballot, according to city staff, ranges from $60,000 and $100,000.