Pay raises approved for upper-level Costa Mesa employees

Top-level city employees in Costa Mesa will get their first pay increases in almost a decade, City Council members decided this week.

The council voted 3-2 on Tuesday, with members Allan Mansoor and Jim Righeimer opposed, to approve raises ranging from 2% to 15.88% for executives and division managers.


The increases are the first for those positions since 2008, according to the city.

Under the pact, those employees also will contribute more of their pay toward their pensions. They currently pay 7.75% to 10.47% but will be required to kick in 9% to 12%, depending on their retirement plan.


Overall, the agreement is expected to create $362,723 in additional annual costs, according to city estimates.

Mayor Katrina Foley said the agreement will help make Costa Mesa more competitive in attracting and retaining high-quality employees.

The city currently has about 90 unfilled positions, she said, "and many of our director positions are vacant."

"I think we've got a very fair agreement here that takes into consideration fiscal conservatism and protects our finances," she said. "It's frugal, but it's functional."

Mansoor and Righeimer said they're worried about how the agreement could affect the city's pension debt, which totaled about $246 million in 2015.

"The pension issue that's been mentioned is a ticking time bomb," Mansoor said. "It's a huge issue that's going to affect our city."

Righeimer said the city should have looked at more-targeted salary increases.

"I think we really need to look at what positions we can't fill and maybe raise those pays," he said.

The approved raises apply to Costa Mesa's executive leadership positions, including city manager, assistant city manager, finance director, information technology director, economic development services director, public services director, fire chief and police chief.

Also receiving raises are division managers, including the assistant development services director, assistant finance director, building official, city clerk, city engineer, human-resources manager, legislative and public affairs manager, maintenance services manager, recreation manager, senior center program administrator and transportation services manager.

In 2012, those employees volunteered to increase their contributions for their pensions to the California Public Employees' Retirement System without a salary increase, which effectively resulted in a pay reduction, Assistant City Manager Tammy Letourneau said earlier this year.

Pay raises for executives will range from 2% for the fire chief to 15.88% for the assistant city manager position. For division managers, the increases fall between 2% for the legislative and public affairs manager to 15.76% for the assistant finance director.

The increases were calculated based on a council direction to adjust salaries so they are 5% below the average total compensation for similar positions in Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Newport Beach and Santa Ana, according to Costa Mesa staff.

If a position's salary range was already within that 5%, staff recommended the council adjust it so the employee wouldn't see a pay reduction after contributing more to CalPERS.

The agreement approved Tuesday also increases the monthly car allowance for city executives from $477 to $575 and establishes a new technology allowance of $75 per month.

Executives and division managers also will now have a lower cap on the amount of vacation they can accrue — 320 hours rather than 424 — and a lower rate at which they earn vacation time.

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