ESCONDIDO — A split City Council approved a 7.5% salary raise for council members and a 6% raise for the mayor earlier this month, changes that will take effect a year from now.
The council approved the increases by a 3-2 vote on Dec. 6, directing staff to return with a draft to officially adopt the ordinance on Dec. 13.
Currently, council members are paid $2,088.43 per month, and the mayor is paid $5,895.09 per month. The mayor receives the same council base pay plus an additional $3,806.66 per month.
Every other December during odd-numbered years, the City Council is obligated by law to consider compensation raises for council members and the mayor. Any approved raises go into effect the following year after the next election.
The council has voted against implementing any increases since the current rate was last approved in 2017, which took effect in December 2018.
Councilmember Mike Morasco suggested a 1.25% increase per calendar year since the last salary adjustment six years ago, adding to the overall 7.5% salary increase for council members. Mayor Dane White suggested a 1% increase for the mayor’s seat.
City Attorney Mike McGuinness said the council could have gone as high as 30%, or 5% for each calendar year since the last adjustment.
While contemplating a salary increase, McGuinness cautioned council members to consider the amount of time needed to perform their council and mayoral duties, the nature of work performed, the impact that inflation has over time and their need to attract a broad demographic of candidates as council members in the future.
“It will be six years without any increase, and if the council chooses to waive an increase again, at some point in time, a future City Council will need to address the matter, and the divide will only be getting bigger between the 2018 salary numbers and those in the future,” McGuinness said.
McGuinness also said city employees receive a 1.42% to 3.55% average yearly salary increase. Morasco noted his 1.25% suggestion is below that average.
“We can keep kicking this can down the road but eventually some city council has to address it and make the adaptation, otherwise it becomes so skewed and could become impossible to correct,” he said.
Morasco said he wouldn’t benefit from the increase as he doesn’t plan to run for reelection in 2024.
“It’s the only thing that’s fair to make available people of any socioeconomic strata here in the city so they too can run for city council and be participants,” Morasco said.
Recently appointed Deputy Mayor Christian Garcia agreed with Morasco, saying he would make more as a teacher without the extra duties. Garcia is a high school math and social studies teacher at Futures Academy.
“If we stay where we are now, we wouldn’t be able to bring in people who are working-class… we would only have people who are independently wealthy or retired,” Christian Garcia said.
Councilmember Joe Garcia said he was struggling with the decision to increase the council’s salary as the city continues to grapple with its structural budget deficit.
“I understand the issue that will eventually happen after years of no increase, but we’re really struggling with our budget,” Joe Garcia said.
In the end, Joe Garcia and Councilmember Consuelo Martinez voted against the salary increase, saying he would voluntarily decline it when it takes effect next year.