The San Juan Bautista City Council on Feb. 23 unanimously approved a resolution to create an assistant city manager/planning director position. Council members approved the position at a rate of $50 an hour, or around $104,000 per year.
According to the meeting agenda packet, community development revenues will fund 40% of the position, the water and sewer fund will fund 10%, and the rest will come from the general fund. Additionally, the city has a one-time $23,500 Regional Early Action Planning (REAP) grant to help fund the position.
The REAP grant previously funded a part-time project manager position held by Marti Brown, who has since left for a full-time position, according to the agenda packet.
City Manager Don Reynolds said while San Juan Bautista was proactive in reducing staff and freezing unfilled positions in anticipation of decreased revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, favorable revenue trends now allow the city to fund the assistant manager position.
Among those trends are property taxes that exceeded Reynolds’ projection by more than $30,000 and sales tax that exceeded projection by $100,000.
“The city has a structural surplus of $190,000 in general fund revenues,” Reynolds said. “A combination of property tax and sales tax so that is really good news, and we’re really fortunate to be in this position.”
Additionally, he said the city’s expenditures were less than expected, representing savings of $87,000. He expects the city to save $160,000 by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
Though council members voiced support for the new position, Councilwoman Mary Edge said she was worried about salary. She suggested a rate of $35 per hour, which would be close to $73,000 a year.
“I did a little bit of research and the national average of assistant managers is $35 an hour,” Edge said. “In fact, San Francisco pays $40 and cents an hour, San Jose pays $38.52, Santa Clara pays $40.25. I don’t feel the size of the community that we are, I don’t feel that we can afford to pay $50 an hour. I don’t want to make that mistake again because we have in the past.”
Jackie Morris-Lopez and Yolanda Delgado, both members of the San Juan Bautista Historic Resources Board and Planning Commission, also voiced concern for paying the position a six-digit annual salary and said it was better to be fiscally conservative.
“I didn’t quite hear what that job spec was going to be,” Morris-Lopez said. “What clearly are the duties of this assistant city manager/planner? I think that’s warranted to measure and make a decision if the salary in mind goes along with the specific duties that you’re projecting or stating.”
Resident EJ Sabathia said even without a conversation about the job description, he felt he had a good sense of the job’s responsibilities because Reynolds had presented an organizational chart several times at past meetings.
“I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what they would be working on just from paying a moderate amount of attention to some of those things,” Sabathia said, adding that he assumed a job description would be written before the city posts the job.
Following public comment, Reynolds showed the job description that he had attached to the agenda packet. The four-page document includes a definition of the position; duties and responsibilities; and required skills and abilities.
While Mayor Leslie Jordan and Councilman Cesar Flores did not provide comments, council members Scott Freels and John Freeman said the wage recommended by Reynolds was not unreasonable.
“I know it seems huge money, but in our neck of the woods it’s really not a lot of money,” Freels said. “It’s one of those things that you get what you pay for.”
Freeman challenged Edge’s numbers with his own research.
“I’m not certain where a lot of figures come from, but an assistant city manager in the city of San Jose makes $171,000 a year,” Freeman said. “That’s a lot more than $50 an hour.”
Transparency California reports that Jennifer Maguire, San Jose’s assistant city manager, made more than $300,000 in 2018 and 2019 in regular pay, and Gonzales’ Community Development Director Matthew Sundt made $123,000 in 2019. Gonzales has 8,300 residents according to census data. San Juan Bautista has 2,104 residents.
Freeman also said San Benito County is known for paying low wages, which is why hiring and retention is an issue.
“We have to pay money to train them again and then they leave for another $3,000 a month,” Freeman said. “That’s a vicious cycle that doesn’t pan out in the long run.”
Reynolds said he took 90% of his salary to come up with the wage for the assistant manager position, and that the salary would also depend on qualifications and experience.
Reynolds, who has presented multiple updates on his effort to create a city organizational structure, was unable to convince the council to convert three part-time positions to full-time.
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