A Sacramento pay commission unanimously voted late Monday to grant Mayor Kevin Johnson and City Council members a 2 percent raise.
The pay increase will boost council members’ annual salary from $62,032 to $63,273, an increase of $1,240. Mayor Kevin Johnson will see his salary increase by $2,357, from the current $117,861 per year to $120,218.
The increase approved by the Sacramento Compensation Commission is in line with the 2 percent increase that the City Council previously approved for the city’s executive managers. Commissioners also noted that members of the union representing the largest number of Sacramento city employees, Local 39, received a 2.5 percent increase for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
Commission members said the increases are warranted, noting that a modest increase granted last year followed four or five years of no increases.
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“I don’t think they are all that handsomely compensated,” said commissioner Howard Posner, a retired state Assembly committee aide.
At the urging of Posner and commissioner Evelyn Chin, the panel directed staff members to research the financial consequences to the city of reclassifying auto, technology and expense allowances as salary.
Although they are called allowances, the funds don’t have to be spent for the specific purposes and invoices are not submitted for their use. If the money isn’t spent during the fiscal year, the mayor and council members don’t have to return it to city coffers and can use it as they see fit, Posner said. Each council member receives allowances totaling $8,500 a year. The mayor gets $14,200.
Chin said the public might reasonably assume that an expense allowance means those funds are intended to cover travel expenses, but the allowances are in addition to city reimbursements council members and the mayor receive for travel.
“To me it just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t smell right,” she said.
Posner said he had been told that requiring invoices for use of the funds would create a nightmare for city staff members. “So instead,” he said, “call them what they are, because they can be used by members for any purpose.”
Posner said he did not want the allowances to be counted as salary for retirement purposes. If they were, staff members said, it would cost the city an additional $100,000 a year in contributions to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. Posner suggested requiring council members and the mayor to cover any additional PERS contributions that would result. Staff members said the allowances are subject to federal and state taxes, but classifying them as salary could also trigger an additional employment tax for Medicare.
Staff members said they likely could provide a report to the commission by mid-September.
The Compensation Commission is required to meet at least once a year to establish compensation for the mayor and City Council. Compensation for Sacramento city officials is considered by examining pay for elected leaders in eight “benchmark cities” considered to have similarities in size and governmental structure. They include the California cities of Long Beach, Riverside, San Jose and Stockton, as well as Aurora, Colo.; Austin, Texas; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Kansas City, Mo.
The commission did not approve any increase in compensation for the city’s 20 boards and commissions.