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AG City Council pushes its own pay increase back to 2022 

Current members of Arroyo Grande's City Council might not get that 60 percent raise after all.

After a second discussion regarding a proposed pay increase for its members and mayor at a meeting on Nov. 26, the City Council walked back support for putting the raise into effect on Dec. 1, 2020, and instead voted to push the effective date back to 2022.

click to enlarge FLIP-FLOPPING At a meeting on Nov. 26, the Arroyo Grande City Council voted to push a proposed 60 percent pay raise back to 2022, a decision that largely hinged on Councilmember Keith Storton’s swing vote. - SCREENSHOT FROM SLO-SPAN
  • Screenshot From SLO-SPAN
  • FLIP-FLOPPING At a meeting on Nov. 26, the Arroyo Grande City Council voted to push a proposed 60 percent pay raise back to 2022, a decision that largely hinged on Councilmember Keith Storton’s swing vote.

With two council members dead set against the 2020 effective date and two others for it, the decision largely hinged on Councilmember Keith Storton, who initially supported putting the raise into effect in 2020 but wavered at the council's most recent meeting.

"I'm feeling that I really struggled with the decision, and I had so much heartache after I left with that decision," Storton said at the meeting. "I didn't feel comfortable when I left that I made the appropriate decision for me. And so tonight I can't support the ordinance as written with the raise coming in 2020."

City Council analyzed increasing compensation for the first time at a meeting on Nov. 12 after Mayor Caren Ray Russom requested that the issue be considered for the first time since 2008.

Arroyo Grande's City Council members and mayor make $405 a month, making it the lowest paid council in San Luis Obispo County. The next lowest is Morro Bay, according to a city staff report, where council members make $500 a month and the mayor gets $700. Atascadero, Paso Robles, and Grover Beach all pay their council members $600 and mayors $750 to $800 each month, and SLO pays the highest, with $1,224 a month for its council members and $1,750 a month for its mayor.

A 60 percent spike, which was suggested by city staff, would bring the monthly pay for each Arroyo Grande council member up to $648.

Despite community opposition to the raise and a spirited debate between council members, City Council voted 3-2 on Nov. 12 to direct staff to create an ordinance that would raise compensation for its members in 2020.

But with Storton's change of mind on Nov. 26, the council decided to amend the ordinance so that the raise would go into effect in 2022, when the current council members are more likely to be finished serving. Although Mayor Russom tried to fight for a nominally larger raise in 2022, other council members shot the idea down.

Councilmember Lan George, who was the first to suggest pushing the ordinance's effective date back to 2022, said she wasn't comfortable increasing compensation any more than already proposed.

"I definitely don't want to bring this item back because I want to talk about other things," George said. "We have a lot of big issues that I want to get moving on so I don't want to constantly be spending council time discussing this."

City Council voted 4-1 to support the 2022 amendment, with only Councilmember Jimmy Paulding, who said he wouldn't support a pay increase of any kind, dissenting. Δ

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