CITY HALL — Santa Monicans, have no fear — your City Council members aren’t breaking your bank with unearned salaries.
According to compensation information posted to the smgov.net website, the typical city council member makes approximately $12,888.96 per year, or roughly $12.39 an hour assuming a 20-hour workweek.
The number is slightly higher for the mayoral position, which earns $15,467.04 per year.
(The salary information for all Santa Monica employees can be found at smgov.net, on the far right column entitled, “Santa Monica Municipal Employee and Elected Official Salaries.”)
Compensation doesn’t increase drastically when one factors in other meetings that the council gets paid to attend.
According to City Clerk Maria Stewart, council members are paid $30 to meet as the Redevelopment Agency, $50 to meet as the Parking Authority and $50 to meet as the Housing Authority.
Across 2010, the Council met 16 times as a Redevelopment Agency, four times as the Parking Authority and twice as the Housing Authority.
That totals an additional $780 per council member for the time spent at those meetings, assuming each attended every one.
Councilmember Gleam Davis estimated that she spent approximately 15 hours a week doing council business on weeks with Tuesday meetings, and approximately 10 hours a week when the council didn’t meet.
That’s on top of a full-time job that takes up 60 hours of her time.
“I’ve been accused of being insane,” she said.
Davis said that she uses the money she earns from the council position to pay for trips and attend events as a city representative that, by ethics laws, she cannot request reimbursement for.
She admitted that she never really considered the amount of money she was being paid for her service.
“It’s not the city of Bell,” she assured, referencing the Southern California city that came under fire last summer for excessive salaries for its City Council members, some of whom were raking in roughly $100,000 a year, and city manager.
Councilmember Terry O’Day felt that the money paid to the council helped cover some of the lost income opportunities, as well as costs of childcare and being away from his family for city meetings and functions.
The amount of time devoted to the position varies, he said.
“Over the last eight-week period, we’ve had seven meetings,” O’Day said. “It adds up.”
This level of compensation holds true for a random selection of Southern California cities chosen for location and/or size.
The inland city of Burbank, with a population of approximately 108,000 and vibrant movie industry, paid its council members between $13,324.90 and $25,175.15 in gross wages in 2010.
Gross wages include all benefits, bonuses and one-time cashouts the employee took advantage of in that year.
According to Burbank Public Information Officer Keith Sterling, council members are paid $25 for each Redevelopment Agency meeting they attend.
They are paid for no other meetings, he said.
Along the coast, the larger city of Huntington Beach, with a population just over 200,000, paid its council members $16,729 per year, said Sandy Henderson, an administrative aide with the city.
Council members also received between $5,380 and $13,984 in benefits, depending on whether they signed up for an individual or family plan.
They also receive money for meetings with agencies outside the city, but those fees are not paid by city coffers.
Pay for council members and other city officials came under intense scrutiny after two Los Angeles Times reporters broke the story about rampant over-compensation in the city of Bell.
Since, many cities have posted salary ranges on websites, and State Controller John Chiang’s office created a database of salary information for all city employees for 2009.
“The most important thing is transparency,” said Eva Speigel, spokesperson for the League of California Cities.
The league has taken a proactive stance on the perception of corruption, pushing for openness and running various informational articles about ethics in city government.
“It’s important for people to have this information,” Speigel said. “We think it’s applicable to the state level as well.”
Compensation information from 2009 for all California city employees and elected officials is available on the State Controller’s website.