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Council to Consider a 10% Pay Hike

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The five members of the City Council will consider giving themselves a 10% raise at Tuesday’s meeting, potentially hoisting their annual salaries to $13,572.

Council members will consider paying themselves $1,131 a month, starting in November. Now they earn $1,026 monthly--or $12,312 a year--a figure they set in 1996. The raise is in keeping with state law, which suggests up to a 5% raise a year.

While Thousand Oaks’ elected leaders earn more than any of their counterparts countywide, the amount is a pittance in this affluent burg, where the average annual salary is about $60,000.

But council members, only one of whom works full time, receive a variety of perks that other working stiffs don’t: televised Tuesday night meetings that can run into the wee hours of the morning; public scrutiny for every Civic Arts Plaza built, every sewer line not replaced; and the joy of running for office every four years.

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All in all, the salary is a bargain, said Councilwoman Linda Parks.

“I feel like I put in full-time hours for this, so the taxpayers are making out,” she said. Assuming Parks and her colleagues work a 40-hour week governing, their hourly rate would be a McDonald’s-esque $7.07.

However, council critic Nick E. Quidwai isn’t sure he is getting his money’s worth. He believes council members are too quarrelsome to deserve more money.

“The council is a disgrace for the city,” he said. “Whether you support the so-called majority or the minority, you wouldn’t want to give a tape of a council meeting to a family member or a friend except as a joke. There is no civility.”

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Council salaries vary widely around the county, with officials in bigger cities generally earning the most. Council members make $75 a month in Fillmore, $325 in Ojai, $776.16 plus an expense account in Simi Valley and $600--or $700 if you are the mayor--in Ventura.

So what does a $13,572 annual salary buy council members in Thousand Oaks?

It’s enough to swing by the Auto Mall and drive off in a stripped-down Honda Civic or a more tricked-out Hyundai Accent.

Or, the cash could buy 133 of the 2,000 planks from the much-criticized copper curtain, which cost the city about $200,000.

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A conservation-minded council member could acquire 522, 5-gallon oak tree saplings at Armstrong Garden Center on Thousand Oaks Boulevard.

Those with a more pragmatic streak might want to consider a contribution--such as helping pay off the recommended $2.11-million fine the city faces for a massive sewer-main break in February.

If all five council members pooled their salaries, it would take a bit over 31 years to cover that potential fine.

Financial planner and Ventura Mayor Jim Friedman--who makes about 62% of the proposed Thousand Oaks salary--suggests that council members could use their salaries for charitable contributions or diversified mutual funds, if they would like a decent return on their investments.

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But Friedman said no one runs for City Council looking to earn an easy buck.

“This is public service,” he said. “This is my goodwill contribution to the city I care about. The salary isn’t what anyone cares about.”

While taxpayer advocate H. Jere Robings wouldn’t quibble with Friedman’s pay, he joins Quidwai in opposing a raise for the Thousand Oaks council.

“The current council compensation is sufficient,” he said. “I realize they put in a lot of hours, but certainly this shouldn’t be their full-time vocation.”

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