City Hall

Q&A: How much do Citrus Heights council members actually get paid?

Albert Fox, Citrus Heights city council
File photo, newly appointed Citrus Heights Councilman Albert Fox is sworn in by City Clerk Amy Van, as Vice Mayor Steve Miller and Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins look on. // CH Sentinel

In response to several inquiries from our readers, The Sentinel looked into how much city council members make in Citrus Heights. Here’s what we found:

California Government Code section 36516 puts a default cap on the salary of city council members based on a city’s population. For cities like Citrus Heights with populations of 75,000 to 150,000, the default cap is set at $600 per month, which is what Citrus Heights council members are currently paid in monthly salary, according to Stafani Daniell, the city’s finance director.

That amounts to a small pre-tax salary of about $7,200 per year — an amount Councilman Bret Daniels told The Sentinel is “woefully inadequate” and is likely why each current council member is either working another full or part-time job, or is retired.

Despite the simple salary calculation, the amount actually paid out to each council member becomes a bit more complicated.

According to public data published by the California State Controller on publicpay.ca.gov, the total annual wages paid to the five members of the Citrus Heights council in 2016 ranged from $6,300 to $15,000, depending on the council member. Additional benefits listed for 2016 ranged from $7,300 to $10,000 per council member for retirement, plus health, dental and vision coverage.

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Health coverage is the largest benefit provided to council members, with the city paying up to $600 per month for premiums. Alternatively, council members can cash-out of the plan and put the $600 into a deferred compensation program.

Council members also receive additional compensation for sitting on various boards and commissions in the city, including the Sacramento Area Sewer District, RegionalSan, and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments. Compensation rates are around $100 per meeting, with council members typically sitting on one or two paid boards per month in addition to other committees and boards that do not offer compensation.

Related: 12 boards, committees you didn’t know Citrus Heights council members serve on

Retirement benefits were added in 2008 and can amount to the largest cumulative benefit council members receive, although after eight years of service, a former council member only receives a small monthly retirement check of just over $100. But with benefits kicking in at age 55, that small amount can result in a retirement benefit total of $46,460 over 30 years, with a larger amount for those who served longer than eight years. The amount is calculated by multiplying 2.7 percent by $7,200 and then multiplying that figure by the number of years served on the council.

Other benefits include a $100,000 life insurance policy that was added administratively in 2004, after councilman Bill Hughes died in office.

Document: Citrus Heights City Council Handbook

According to the latest Citrus Heights City Council Handbook, council members can also be reimbursed for expenses “when reasonably and necessarily incurred while traveling or otherwise in the performance of official duties.” Each council member can also be issued a “CAL-card,” a $2,000-limit credit card to be used for small purchases incurred while on official business.

How do wages and benefits in Citrus Heights compare with other cities?
Data posted on publicpay.ca.gov shows Citrus Heights appears to be on par with similarly-sized cities in the region, with total wages paid to Rancho Cordova councilmembers listed at $6,000 each in 2016, along with benefits ranging from $10,000 to $21,000. Folsom councilmembers were similarly paid wages between $7,200 and $8,300, with benefits ranging from $200 to $14,600.

By contrast, City of Sacramento council members received pay ranging from about $57,000 to $70,000 in 2016, with the mayor paid $123,000. Benefits ranged from about $12,000 to $33,000, according to data published by the State Controllers Office.

Sacramento’s salary is significantly higher, which is allowed by state law for charter cities. By contrast, Citrus Heights is a “general law” city, which means it is structured according to standards set by state government code. State law does allow local voters to approve an increase to the salary in general law cities and the council can vote to increase the salary by five percent per year, but Citrus Heights has not chosen to do so.

Asked about pay rates, Citrus Heights council members and a former councilwoman indicated their pay does not reflect the amount of hours put into the job.

“Do we get paid enough?” said Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins in response to a question from The Sentinel. “Given the time we put in, absolutely not. But we don’t do it for money. We do it for community service.”

In addition to the council’s two regular meetings per month, Bruins estimated she puts in 10 to 25 hours per week in council-related business.

Councilman Daniels agreed, calling it “woefully inadequate and based on an antiquated system” that has been in place for decades.

Former councilwoman Jayna Karpinski-Costa also agreed, saying, “I think $600 a month is way too little for the work you do being on the council.” She said going to other meetings, attending unpaid all-day retreats, and making appearances at events during the day made it hard to keep another day job and said her veterinary business suffered during her eight-year term on the council.

Karpinski-Costa, whose husband Ted Costa heads an area taxpayer advocacy group, said a higher salary should be paid to council members, but opposed offering benefits.

“I don’t think council members should get any benefits — we’re not employees.”

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