The Huntington Beach City Council voted Monday to draft an ordinance that would eliminate their health benefits and reduce their expense allowances.
Councilman Keith Bohr said the council should lead by example at a time when city employees are asked to take cuts and services are being slashed.
“I thought we should take the lead as council folks and look at our own compensation,” said Bohr, who proposed the idea. “We’re talking about eliminating programs completely and shutting down branch libraries.”
If passed, the cuts would only affect new members elected to the council in November and beyond. Current council members, including incumbents, would continue to enjoy their current benefits and expense allowances.
Reducing the monthly expenses would save the city $17,279 to $26,554 per council member a year. Health benefits run about $30,000 for each of the seven council members and eliminating the benefits for future officials could mean savings well into the six figures in the future.
Each council member receives a $175 monthly stipend, which is provided for in the city’s charter and would remain the same under the new ordinance. The city also budgets $1,700 for each council member and $2,900 for the mayor annually to attend meetings or conferences. That amount would also not be reduced if a new ordinance is adopted.
However, additional expenses for items such as meals and gas would be drastically reduced if the council votes to adopt the new expense standards. The monthly expense of $1,758 for the mayor and $1,219 to $1,253.87 per council member would be reduced to $125 across the board.
Council members can also elect to receive medical, vision and dental insurance or opt out. New council members would not be able to opt in if a new ordinance is adopted.
Although the changes wouldn’t affect current council members, not everyone was on board. The council voted 4 to 3 to bring forward the ordinance, with Council members Connie Boardman, Joe Carchio and Joe Shaw opposing.
Councilwoman Connie Boardman said that while the job responsibilities far outweigh what the council members receive in compensation, being reimbursed for expenses makes up for losing some of her income.
Boardman, a college professor, said the job of a council member takes more than just 10 hours a week.
“When I took this job, I cut back on the number of units I taught at college,” she said.
Shaw and Carchio concurred.
Carchio said that while he was mayor, he put more than 12,000 miles on his car.
There was also a concern that cutting the expenses would lead some qualified candidates to shy away from running for council, which could affect the economic diversity on the council.
“If you’re running for that, you probably shouldn’t be a candidate,” Bohr said.