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Pay hike for SLO? 

San Luis Obispo city councilmembers are scheduled to vote on whether to give a pay increase to themselves, city planning commissioners, and architectural review commissioners.

If approved at a scheduled April 15 City Council meeting, city councilmembers will receive a $200 per month bump in pay to $1,200, while the mayor’s monthly salary will increase from $1,200 to $1,500.

Members of the planning and architectural review commissions would receive $60 per meeting rather than the going rate of $50, with a maximum monthly total of $240 per month.

A city-appointed Council Compensation Committee made the recommendation—the first proposed salary increase since 2008, according to a city staff report. City councilmembers decided not to appoint such a committee in 2010 and 2012, according to the staff report.

A compensation survey of several other California communities showed an average mayoral salary of $1,425 per month, while the average city councilmember makes $971 per month.

Mayor Jan Marx said she’s always viewed her work time on the City Council as “volunteer work” with a stipend to cover costs.

“It’s more than a full-time job,” she said, noting that her compensation typically goes toward backfilling expenses she incurs on the job.

Previous SLO city elected officials pointed to pay as a reason they left. Former councilman Andrew Carter wrote in a Jan. 4 letter that he resigned from his seat because “I could no longer afford to serve.” Carter wrote that he was unable to find full-time employment because of the time he had to devote to being on the City Council: “During my job search, I was repeatedly told I would be perfect for a position, ‘if only you weren’t on Council.’”

The decision comes in the midst of a number of divisive financial issues in SLO. City councilmembers are split on a proposal to ask voters to re-approve Measure Y, the one-half percent sales tax. At the same time, the city is appealing a ruling over the controversial practice of binding arbitration for public safety employee labor groups.

If approved, the compensation increases would translate to a $6,000 hit to the current 2014-15 budget, with an ongoing cost of $13,200 annually. The commission members’ pay would cost $3,360 annually. The salary increases would go into effect next year.

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