City Council to give final vote on compensation, street tree ownership

City Hall on Thursday, June 14, 2018. Eddy Martinez/The Signal
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After advancing to a second reading at its last meeting, the Santa Clarita City Council is expected Tuesday to give a final vote on how much compensation council members serving in the next coming years should receive. 

Their vote would adopt an ordinance that amends a section of the Santa Clarita municipal code that reads the council salary will increase “from the amount of $2,015.83 to $2,217.41 per month effective on January 1, 2021, or after the November 2020 election results are certified by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder and the Santa Clarita City Clerk, whichever date is later.”

The total amount of the increase was discussed at the council’s Sept. 24 meeting, where two motions were made: an increase of 20% or 10%, each of which will gradually increase over a four-year period starting in 2021.

Though each received a 3-2 vote, the 10% increase with a 2.5% salary hike passed to a second reading after it was introduced by Councilwoman Laurene Weste with a subsequent vote. 

“It’s just personal feelings. People have personal feelings about a dollar amount and that’s where I was comfortable,” said Weste, who addressed why she preferred less than a 20% pay raise. 

Council members are compensated each month by the city for participating in meetings, community events, meeting with constituents and representing the city on regional and statewide boards, as well as on commissions and organizations.  

The budget impact would be just more than $200 per month for each council member or an annual increase to the city budget of $12,094.80 for the City Council, according to a city staff report. 

Street trees

Also up for adoption on Tuesday is an ordinance that would offer the city flexibility to transfer ownership and maintenance responsibility for street trees to property owners “in limited circumstances” via a written agreement approved by the City Council, according to the ordinance.

The city owns and maintains street trees located within medians or on parkways between sidewalks and curbs but, in some areas throughout Santa Clarita, “trees are located within the right of way in locations that would suggest that private property owners own the trees. In some limited instances, it may be appropriate for such private property owners to own and maintain the trees,” the report reads. 

“It’s just common sense to be able to look at the trees and say, you know, if they border the property lines of private property and/or city property that there should be some mutual connection there to help maintain them and keep them from falling down and injuring people or private properties,” said resident Roger Haring, who suggested upkeep could be funded by selling paintings of oak trees located across Santa Clarita. 

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