SLO council defers biennial pay panel

The San Luis Obispo City Council deferred creating a committee to determine future compensation for council members Tuesday night, therefore holding their place as the highest paid council members in the county.

The 3-2 vote, with Mayor Jan Marx and Councilman John Ashbaugh dissenting, will keep council compensation as it is for another two years. Ashbaugh argued Tuesday night that the decision to defer the committee represented “a failure of leadership” by the council.

Earlier this year, the council voluntarily reduced its pay and benefits, but they can only make changes to their own pay — not that of future council members.

The council has the chance once every two years to create a five-person committee to decide how much future City Council members should be paid and what additional benefits they should be entitled to.

Councilman Dan Carpenter said his decision to defer the committee for another two years was based on the amount of staff time it would take to oversee it.

In 2008, the last time such a committee was convened, three staff members assisted by creating the agendas and keeping minutes for the two times that the committee met. In October, City Council members voluntarily reduced their pay and offered to begin paying their share of their pension costs, saving the city $8,300 a year.

City Council members said they made the change to show support for city employees, who are being asked to take a 6.8 percent cut in total compensation to balance the city’s budget.

Carpenter is the only council member who has opted out of the retirement benefits. He also took a larger cut in pay, about 15 percent, than the rest of the council members.

Council members typically receive $12,000 annually, and the mayor is entitled to $14,400 annually.

Marx is receiving $1,100 a month and Carpenter is receiving $850 a month. Council members Kathy Smith, Andrew Carter and Ashbaugh receive $945 a month.

Those changes in compensation only remain in effect while the current council members are in office.

In Pismo Beach, which has the next highest paid council, the mayor receives $814.40 a month, while council members get $514.40.