Minutes after the new Milpitas City Council was seated last week, the panel voted to approve salary increases for itself.
The council voted unanimously Dec. 2 to approve an ordinance to implement a 5-percent salary increase for the mayor and council, which equates to $2,714 more in expenses annually between all five members. On a related motion the same night, the council voted 3-2, with Mayor Jose Esteves and Councilman Garry Barbadillo dissenting, to approve a resolution that cancels a prior 10-percent reduction to the council’s salary and car allowance implemented in 2010 and 2012.
According to city staff, the total 15-percent pay increase — basic salary only — equates to $11,442 more in pay between all five members annually.
During a presentation prior to the vote, Milpitas Human Resources Department Director Carmen Valdez said due to the economic downturn in July 2010 the city council voted to reduce its salary by 6 percent.
“Then again in March 2012 the city council further voted to reduce their salary and car allowance for a total of a 10-percent reduction,” Valdez said. “At that time, city council voted to forfeit city-paid medical benefits, which includes medical, dental and vision. If they opted to continue they would pay the premiums on their own.”
She added city staff’s recommendation was to fully restore these payments to council.
Valdez also confirmed the ordinance would offer a 5-percent salary increase — not seen here since 2002. She added the monthly net salary increase for a council member is $904.37, while the mayor will earn $1,130.75 more.
After a question from Esteves about other city employee unions’ pay, Valdez confirmed the city had not implemented full pay restoration to all unions as of the Dec. 2 meeting, the same meeting where council approved a more than $3-million pay hike to the city’s fire union.
Although the council eventually approved the raises, Barbadillo, who along with Councilwoman Marsha Grilli sat in on their first council meeting, said the action of reversing the 10-percent reduction was not fair to other city employees who had not been restored yet.
“Well, I signed up for public service and out of decency I will be voting ‘no’ on this proposal as a city councilman,” Barbadillo said.
Esteves agreed, saying other city employees had not seen their salaries fully restored in the years since the economic downturn.
“We should be the last,” Esteves said. “That’s for the 10 percent only.”
Vice Mayor Carmen Montano disagreed, saying it was a restoration of lost pay.
“The previous council sacrificed as other employees sacrificed,” Montano said, noting employee unions were slowly being restored. “I think it’s fair to restore the council as well, it’s not a lot.”
As far as the 5-percent salary increase, Councilwoman Debbie Giordano, who asked for this item to be agendized for council review, said the public was likely unaware that the council did not earn much money.
“I think they’re very surprised to see it’s more like a stipend than a salary,” Giordano said.
Likewise, Montano said she sat through many meetings and sat on nine different committees as part of her work on the council.
“I just want to let the public know that we do work a lot of hours … I think that it’s fair that we should get this raise,” Montano added.
At the meeting, Milpitas City Attorney Mike Ogaz said legally, at the time when new council members take office, the council can adjust its salaries accordingly.
“We can do it when a new council member takes office assuming that the appropriate time has passed from the last time,” Ogaz said. “We certainly can this time; it’s been 12 years since (the last raise).”
Esteves said the 5-percent increase was long overdue.
“It’s not the amount, it’s a very small amount, but it’s a good gesture of appreciation for (new council members) willing to come forward to serve hours and hours,” Esteves said.
Before the increase, the mayor was paid an annual salary of about $13,000, and council members were paid a salary of about $10,300 per year.
The mayor’s gross pay in 2013 was about $18,700 and council members’ gross was more than $16,300.