City Council vote advances pay raise to second reading

Santa Clarita City Hall is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. File Photo
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After some debate, the Santa Clarita City Council voted Tuesday for a council member salary increase of 10% over the next four years — a gradual wage increase to take effect starting in 2021. 

The vote was 3-2 for the five-member council to choose a percentage increase, whether that be the proposed 20% or less, and pass to a second reading an ordinance that would amend a section of the Santa Clarita Municipal Code reflecting the salary adjustment. 

Council members are compensated monthly, under specific provisions of state law, for their “substantial amount of time and effort to contribute to leading our local government,” said City Manager Ken Striplin during a presentation before the City Council.

The current monthly salary for each council member is $2,015.83, an amount that has remained the same since Jan. 1, 2017. The new 10% increase would begin to take effect Jan. 1, 2021, or after certified November 2020 election results, if the raise is approved at a second reading. 

When the discussion opened, Councilman Bill Miranda said he believed the City Council should follow the proposed up to 20% increase, for future candidates “who want to serve the community to be able to say, ‘Hey, if I’m going to give up so many hours of my time, I need to have some compensation, some reasonable compensation, to sustain me financially.’”

Councilwoman Laurene Weste followed, saying that on grounds of “personal feelings,” she felt comfortable with a 10% total increase, with 2.5% salary hikes annually over a four-year period. 

With two separate figures on the table, two motions were taken for a vote. The 20% increase was defeated by a 3-2 margin, with McLean and Miranda in favor. The 10% increase, introduced by Weste with a subsequent vote, passed by a 3-2 margin, with Councilman Bob Kellar and Mayor Pro Tem Cameron Smyth voting “no.” 

Most of the discussion revolved around compensation benefitting whoever sits on the council in the next coming terms, which sparked a minor debate among McLean and Smyth. 

“I’m not rich; I’m not making money off of this for sure. I just don’t understand why we’re not comfortable with the 5% per year. We don’t get the money ourselves, and it’s for the next council,” said McLean, who contended that Smyth voted against the 20% because, “I know you’re running and that’s one reason why you say ‘no.’”  

Smyth said he didn’t appreciate her comment, fact-checking McLean’s claim by noting she “will be on the council in 2021, and will be a recipient of any pay raise.” 

With Tuesday’s vote, the City Council is expected to formally adopt the ordinance with the adjusted salary at a future meeting. 

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