The West Hollywood City Council wound up its lengthy virtual meeting on Monday with a quick vote to give itself a pay raise.
The vote was four to one, with Mayor Lindsey Horvath voting no.
The raise will increase the current base compensation of $1,237 a month for the part-job by $185, or 15%. With the $250 a month stipend for telephone, internet, office, and transportation expenses, the compensation will $20,064. However, retirement and health insurance benefits paid by the city can boost the annual compensation to more than $40,000 for some Council members. The cost of the health insurance depends on the health plans a Council member chooses. The raise will take effect after the Nov. 3 election.
The Council initially considered delaying consideration of the increase until its next meeting. But City Manager Paul Arevalo explained that if it didn’t decide on the raise on Monday night, the one it later approved couldn’t take effect until after the 2022 election.
Horvath said she wasn’t comfortable voting to give herself a raise given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the city, which is seeing a significant decline in revenue because of the pandemic’s impact on travel and tourism, a major revenue generator. Horvath noted that City Hall staff members have been asked to take voluntary furloughs because of the financial crisis caused by the pandemic. Commenters on WEHOville also have questioned why the Council would give itself a raise given that so many residents are struggling financially because of the pandemic.
The last time the Council voted to increase its pay was in November 2015. That increase, 50%, was the first since 2007. It took effect after the March 2017 City Council election. Under state law, city councils in cities organized under state law, as is West Hollywood, may give themselves a 5% annual raise. The last time the Council had decided to give itself a raise before the 2015 vote was in 2007. Horvath abstained from the 2015 vote, saying she wasn’t comfortable voting to give herself a raise.
WEHOville has requested from City Hall a breakdown of each Council member’s compensation but as of publication of this story has not received that information. As reported earlier, a database managed by the State Controller’s office shows total compensation for West Hollywood City Council members in the fiscal year that ended on June 30 ranged from $42,330 to $28,211. The average was $32,019. That works out to 88 cents per resident according to data from the Government Compensation in California database. By comparison, compensation for Beverly Hills City Council members was 93 cents per resident. However, the compensation in Culver City, the only other nearby city with a population close to that of West Hollywood, averaged only 59 cents per resident,
There also are reimbursements for actual expenses incurred in the course of city business. That includes expenses associated with entertainment or travel on the city’s behalf to previously approved events and locations. In addition to meetings of government associations, the City Council has authorized city-funded travel to the Venice Biennale art show in Italy and the South by Southwest music and film festival in Austin, Tex., as well as the various other events associated with Council members’ political interests such as the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, which John Duran attends, and the LGBT Victory Fund, whose events John D’Amico and John Heilman have attended, (The LGBT Victory Fund has endorsed Heilman for re-election.)