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Encinitas Council approves future pay increase

ENCINITAS — With little fanfare, the Encinitas City Council voted to increase the compensation for the city’s elected positions by more than $500 a month on Wednesday night.

The council voted 3-1 in favor of the salary increase, which takes effect after the 2018 election, when a new council is seated. It is the first time the council has voted for a pay increase since 2008.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear and council members Tony Kranz and Tasha Boerner Horvath voted in favor of the raise, while Mark Muir cast the lone vote in dissent.

“The question is what entitles us to an increase?” Blakespear said. “Put simply, we have weighty responsibility that require long hours that are worthy of fair recompense,” Blakespear said. “And to me, fair recompense is to follow the state law that dictates our pay.”

Outgoing Mayor Kristin Gaspar and Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer placed the item on the agenda as one of their last actions on the panel.

As a general law, city, Encinitas’ council and mayoral salary structure is governed by state law, which allows for bodies to increase their pay by five percent annually.

State law doesn’t allow for councils to vote for immediate raises, but only after the next council is seated following an election. This means that at least two of the current sitting council members — Kranz and Boerner Horvath, who aren’t up for re-election until 2020 — would benefit from Wednesday’s vote.

Blakespear, Muir and Joseph Mosca, who was appointed Wednesday night, would be up for re-election before the raise would take effect.

Wednesday night’s vote occurred after most of the crowd, who was there for the appointment to the vacant council seat, had vacated chambers, leaving less than a handful of people in the main gallery.

Blakespear and the council majority also said that an increase would go a long way to make sure that a diverse pool of people would be able to pursue public office without having to worry about financial constraints.

“We don’t want this job to become inaccessible, available only to those who are retired, financially successful and independently wealthy,” Blakespear said.

One speaker, Leucadia resident Kathleen Lees, spoke in favor of the raise.

The City Council currently earns a $1,186 monthly salary, and the elected mayor receives $1,286 -— the council’s base plus a $100 stipend.

The proposal raises the base salary of the council and mayor positions by five percent for every year the city has gone without raising the pay, in this the council last voted itself a pay raise in 2008, so the increase will be $533.70.

The council considered raising its pay in 2010, but a divided group voted 3-2 against the raise, citing the economy as the deciding factor.

Muir, in his dissent, said that he believed that the pay shouldn’t be raised because compensation shouldn’t be the motivation for someone to enter public service.

Boerner Horvath and Kranz responded that they believed the pay raise doesn’t send that message.

“I don’t think any one of us is doing it for the money and I don’t think this raise is enough to disqualify us as serving not in the interest of the money,” Kranz said.