Council to Consider a 10% Pay Hike
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”