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Oceanside to discuss making council positions full-time

OCEANSIDE — Council is set to explore the possibility of paying members as full-time employees and establishing term limits in the near future.

At council’s June 5 meeting, Councilman Chris Rodriguez and Mayor Peter Weiss requested that staff schedule a workshop to present information about salaries of council members in California cities who are paid full-time and what the process would be like to increase Oceanside’s council members.

Additionally, the workshop would include information about preparing a ballot measure to raise council salaries and impose term limits on its members.

Rodriguez pointed to the city’s population of nearly 180,000 and its $157 million budget as well has his own experience adjusting to his role as a council member since he was sworn in last December.

“It is irresponsible in my opinion to continue with the charter that labels council positions as part-time,” he said.

Rodriguez explained that he wants to hold the workshop to get community input on the matter.

According to the city’s website, as of December 2016 the mayor is paid an annual salary of $36,695.04, and council members are paid $33,993.

Though supportive of going forward with a workshop to discuss term limits, Councilwoman Esther Sanchez was adamantly opposed to raising members’ salaries and changing their job status from part-time to full-time.

“To serve on a council or school board or fire district or a water district, it’s a public service,” she said. “It’s not trying to get full-time pay.”

Sanchez recalled her time working 50 to 60 hours a week in the public defenders office while also putting in 40 to 50 hours a week for her first two terms in office in the early to mid-2000s.

“I am absolutely against having full-time pay for this,” she said, noting that the only other city that pays its council members full-time wages in the county is San Diego.

Councilman Ryan Keim said he doesn’t support a salary increase for council members by itself, adding that council and staff roles could be examined as well as campaign finance and term limits.  

Deputy Mayor Jack Feller said he agreed with Keim, adding that he has been an advocate for not having legislative aides.

“We certainly can’t have a pay raise and a legislative aide,” he said.

Feller, who has been on council for 18 years, also said he was open to discussing term limits and to having a workshop to discuss the matter.

Rodriguez defended his request for the workshop, pointing out that it wasn’t meant for current but for future council members. He reasoned that changing the status to full-time and increasing the salary to match that would reflect the amount of work council members do and would enable residents with median income to run for office.

“I’m merely asking to update the charter to be what it is,” he said.

Weiss explained he joined the request for the purpose of having the workshop to gather information on and discuss the potential proposals.  

“We’re not here to vote a pay raise, we’re not here to vote to put it on the ballot,” he said. “It’s to schedule a workshop so we can have the discussion and get input.”

Council voted 4-0 with Sanchez abstaining to schedule a workshop in the future to provide information on salaries, term limits, legislative aides and campaign contributions. A date has yet to be determined but the meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on whatever date chosen to accommodate residents’ work schedules.

Additionally, council adopted its fiscal year 2019-2020 operating budget, Measure X operating budget and the capital improvements program budget.

According to Financial Services Director Jane McPherson, the operating budget has proposed expenditures of $157.6 million.

Measure X has a nearly $13.9 million spending plan for its first year, with about $10.4 million going to infrastructure improvements and nearly $3.5 million going to improving public safety services and addressing homelessness.

The capital improvement program has a budget of $205 million, with $87.3 million going to sewer and $74.1 million going to water as its two biggest expenditures.