San Luis Obispo City Council may appoint committee to review its pay, benefits

San Luis Obispo City Council members on Tuesday could appoint a committee to decide how much they the council should be paid next year and what benefits the members should receive.

Council members also will discuss what time council meetings should begin.

The city has placed formation of a council compensation committee on its agenda. Under council procedures, the five-member group makes its recommendations — which are advisory only — in even-numbered years.City guidelines say the committee “shall have as broad a representation as possible” and should include at least one former elected official, one personnel board member and one citizen at large.

The mayor and City Council already agreed earlier this year to cut back their compensation and increase payments toward their retirement plans.

San Luis Obispo has a population of 42,000, a $100 million budget, and 350 employees. City Councilman John Ashbaugh estimated that council members put in 20 to 25 hours a week.

Asked whether it could seem self-serving to have council members appointing the people who decide their pay, Ashbaugh said “It’s about as hands-off as you can get” for elected officials.

“How else are you going to do it?” he asked in an interview with The Tribune. He said some elected bodies decide their own compensation.

Ashbaugh said serving on the committee is a highly responsible job, and the City Council is looking for people “who make good judgments.”

He said committee members could recommend an increase, a cut or status quo.

Councilwoman Kathy Smith said she isn’t sure the council needs to convene a compensation committee, given that council members already have taken cuts. It might not be an appropriate use of staff time, she said.

Councilman Dan Carpenter, interviewed separately, agreed that this might not be the best way to use an overworked staff.

The compensation issue is part of a broader discussion of council rules and procedures. Starting times for meetings are part of that larger discussion.

The Tuesday meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the City Council chambers, 990 Palm St.