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City council votes to increase compensation, discusses budget 

City council receives update on Highway 46 East overpass project

– The Paso Robles City Council met on March 19 for its regular meeting.

The meeting started with a presentation from SLOCOG on a draft investment plan for a proposed 1/2 cent sales tax that could land on the November ballot. The Local Roads First Initiative would increase funding for road repairs throughout the county, with North County receiving 35% of the revenues. Allocations for different cities and areas within the county would be based on population.

Shrinking gas tax income reportedly due to the increase in efficiency in modern-day vehicles and the increase of electric vehicle ownership has led to a gap in funds for road repairs. SLOCOG is proposing the sales tax as a way to bridge that gap.

The council passed items on the consent calendar unanimously.

Two discussion items included city council goals for Fiscal Year 2024-25 and 2025-26, as well as a discussion on an increase in stipends for city council members and the mayor.

The budget presentation was given by Assistant City Manager Chris Huot.

There are six main budget goals:

  • Transportation and infrastructure
  • Public safety services
  • Recreational, cultural, and open space
  • Homelessness response
  • Community and economic development
  • Efficient and responsive government

 

Within these areas, there are 43 specific initiatives for the next two fiscal years, many of which contain sub-activities.

Tuesday night’s discussion was one part of a larger budget adoption process. Budget discussions will continue at the upcoming Coffee with the City Manager meeting slated for March 22. 

Additional information about the budget and the steps to the adoption of the budget can be found at https://www.prcity.com/877/Budget-Priorities.

A public comment period was held where community members asked if the council and city staff had looked at ways to maximize the existing budget and check for efficiencies. City Manager Ty Lewis said that the city was “always looking at efficiencies,” and how to optimize existing funds.

The council voted unanimously to approve the goals as written.

The second discussion item was the consideration of city council compensation and travel allowance increases. A presentation was given by Administrative Services Director Ryan Cornell.

The mayor and city council members currently receive monthly compensation of $1,400 and $1,050, respectively, according to the item staff report. The last increase in compensation occurred in Nov. 2022; previously it had been since 2006 since the city council had received a compensation increase.

Government code provides that council salaries may increase by up to five percent each calendar year from the operative date of the last adjustment of the salary in effect. However, an ordinance changing city council compensation does not apply to a council member during their term in office. Therefore the change in salary would take effect for all councilmembers in Nov. of 2024, following the next municipal election.

In Aug. of 2022, the council approved a resolution amending the city’s Purchasing and Payment Procedures Manual. A component of that update included councilmember travel and training expenses up to $5,000 per year, otherwise, city council approval is also required.

The suggested options from city staff were that the council adopt the ordinance increasing the salary of the mayor and city councilmembers to $1,540 and $1,155, respectively, and approve a resolution setting City Council travel allowance to $6,000 per year, with a 5% escalation each year.

The city council also receives health and welfare benefits such as medical, dental, and vision insurance, generally consistent with the other labor groups in the city as well as a vehicle/mileage allowance, according to the staff report.

After discussion and public comment, the council directed staff to adjust the ordinance to instead pool all travel funds to $30,000 with all council members and the mayor sharing the allowance based on need. It was also decided that the councilmembers and mayor would make a list of regular assigned meetings that they are expected to attend for regional and national bodies such as the League of Cities which could be pre-approved, and that ideally a single staff member would make and manage all travel reservations.

Additional reasonable costs such as flights booked due to cancellations of other flights and other circumstances outside of the representative’s control would also be covered by funds from the allocation pool.

The council voted 4 to 1 to approve the item to be brought back for a second reading with these changes. Chris Bausch voted no. Fred Strong, Steve Gregory, Sharon Roden, and Mayor John Hamon voted yes. The item will be brought back at a later date for final review and approval.

Click here to view the meeting agenda. 

Watch the full meeting on YouTube:

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