In two separate agenda items, the Hollister City Council took the first steps at its April 18 meeting to raise their monthly stipend of $400 to $800 a month, as well as set term limits. The council is considering two four-year limits.
After determining that councils in other cities with populations ranging from 35,000 to 250,000 were paid from $300 to $1,000 a month, city staff presented council members with three options. They could choose to give themselves a 100% pay raise, pick an amount between $400 and $800, or stay at their current rate.
Under the city’s municipal code, monthly stipends could only be raised 5% each calendar year, but since the rate had not been raised since 2002, the council qualified for a 100% hike. There was agreement among Councilmembers Dolores Morales and Rick Perez, who were in chambers, and Councilmembers Tim Burns and Rolan Resendiz, who were participating via Zoom (Mayor Ignacio Velazquez was absent) to go with the $800 stipend.
Burns said he sensed the council was radically underpaid.
“I don’t know if it’s so much about the money as it is about getting quality people to run for elected office,” he said. “You’re definitely not going to make money, whether it’s $400 or $800 a month. I’d argue in many cases council members don’t even make minimum wage. Money isn’t the motivator, but there is some value, so I support $800.”
Morales said she wanted to let everyone know that the Gilroy council receives $1,400 a month, along with full benefits; Milpitas pays $1,200, with benefits. She, too, supported the $800 amount.
Brett Miller, city manager, said in addition to their monthly stipend, council members “Receive medical if they request it and CalPERS retirement.”
Councilman Resendiz suggested the need to determine how much revenue each city, particularly Milpitas, generated, compared to Hollister. According to their budgets, Milpitas’ projected revenue for fiscal year 2021-22 is $110.8 million while Hollister’s is $72.7 million.
If the council votes in favor of term limits at the next meeting, it will need to hire an election consulting company. Term limits for mayor and council members would require placing a measure on the Nov. 8 ballot. The city staff sought clarification on lifetime limits as opposed to consecutive limits, defining how many total terms are allowed, and how to count partial terms. The financial impact was unknown, but in addition to consulting fees the measure would cost between $16,000 and $26,000.
City Clerk Christine Black said she understood from a previous meeting that the council was in favor of two four-year terms with a one-term break for council members, and four two-year terms for the mayor with a one-term break. She said if there was a desire to have two four-year terms for the mayor, it would involve a separate measure, which would also cost between $16,000 and $26,000 to place on the ballot.
Burns said even though it would cost more to have two measures on the ballot he supported increasing the mayor’s terms to be consistent with the council members’ terms.
“A new mayor’s first year is figuring out what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it,” he said. “And they’ll spend the last six month trying to get reelected. It would be more in alignment with trying to get things accomplished, as opposed to trying to get reelected every other year, I see the value in the investment of doing that [having two measures].”
The four council members agreed that two four-year terms for council and the mayor were appropriate. The staff will bring both agenda items back for a vote at the next meeting.
City Manager Brett Miller told BenitoLink that once the council adopts the contract for the legal team to work on the ballot, he was sure part of the measure would include information on whether the terms would be retroactive, particularly for the mayor, who has already been in office for six two-year terms.
“Right now, we don’t have that information,” Miller said. “That’s everyone’s number one question, though.”
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