City Council members to get slight pay raises 

Santa Clarita City Hall
Santa Clarita City Hall
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The Santa Clarita City Council approved at Tuesday’s meeting an amended motion to give council members a 2.5% pay raise starting in 2025. 

The amendment from Councilwoman Marsha McLean came after the council voted against 10% pay raises, due to a technicality. McLean and Mayor Pro Tem Bill Miranda voted for the larger raise, with Councilwoman Laurene Weste voting against it and Councilman Jason Gibbs abstaining. 

That 2-1 split vote — Mayor Cameron Smyth was not in attendance on Tuesday due to being out of town for business, according to Carrie Lujan, communications manager for the city — would normally be treated as a 3-1 split vote with Gibbs’ abstention, not due to a conflict of interest, being treated as a “yes” vote, according to Joseph Montes, city attorney. However, because the motion would amend a city ordinance, three affirmative votes would have been needed for it to pass. 

Smyth would not be affected by the pay increase as he has already said he is not running for reelection after redistricting meant his neighborhood wouldn’t be on the ballot in 2024. 

McLean then proposed the 2.5% pay increase, the same as what was approved previously and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. That motion was approved 3-1, with Weste voting against it, calling it a “protest vote” due to the situation that many Americans find themselves in with rising inflation. 

In defense of the pay raise, McLean said with the city now at more than 220,000 residents, and her not hearing most of them clamoring for the city to do a better job, that a raise is due. 

“I don’t make a ton of money out there,” McLean said, “and I spend a bunch of my own money and my time, and so I think that compensation is deserved.” 

Multiple members of the public spoke of the rising costs of necessities and how the council members giving themselves a raise while other residents are struggling to feed their families or afford gas goes against common sense. Diane Zimmerman said the council should look at the recent bus drivers’ strike as an example of how residents are forced to drastic measures to get a fair wage. 

“You need every penny you can get to help these people out,” Zimmerman said. “No raises for anyone elected or appointed at this time.” 

Prior to the first vote, Gibbs said he is aware of how hard each of the council members works and that compensation is deserved, even if he doesn’t necessarily want it. 

“I know how hard each and every one of you work, and I mean that very seriously,” Gibbs said, adding that he had no idea what council members made before he was elected in 2020. “Whether you’re doing the regional things and you’re up first thing in the morning, whether it’s weekends, whether it’s Sundays, supporting nonprofits, putting your time and your effort out there — we all give everything to this position. We really do. The pay piece for me, honestly, I mean that very sincerely, I’m indifferent to it. But I think every amount we get is earned.” 

The 2.5% pay hike represents a roughly $58.21 increase to the monthly salary of council members, bringing the new salary to $2,386 per month. That equates to $28,632 per year, well under a $15 minimum-wage salary, which would be $31,200 per year. 

The initial proposal of a 10% pay hike would have seen council members receive raises of $232.82 each, which equates to a $2,561.11 monthly salary and just over $30,700 annually. 

The 10% pay hike would have been in line with the maximum allowed under Senate Bill 329, a law authored by state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-San Francisco, who reasoned that because the compensation schedule for general law cities has not been adjusted since 1984 or kept pace with inflation, a pay hike would help councils’ diversity. 

“Because increased compensation can help individuals from across different income levels receive sufficient income from their service to help ensure that they can continue to serve the public and support their families,” according to the text of the law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in June 2023. 

Weste said she understands why people may be upset with the council getting pay increases during a time in which many people are struggling, which is why she ultimately voted against the raises. 

“I hear a lot of frustration every day, and I don’t know how most people are coping because the last few years have been pretty stressful for everybody,” Weste said. “Food’s become outrageous. Gas is intolerable. Medical costs are most expensive anywhere around the world. And utilities just continue to go up and up. And it’s really easy to understand the pressure that people are having. It’s really easy to understand.” 

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