Dissension divides Millbrae council on salary

As election season approaches, the current batch of Millbrae City Council members look like they are unwilling to give their successors extra money because they cannot agree on how much.

The council voted 3-2 to deny themselves a 7.2 percent pay increase Tuesday, which would have raised their monthly pay from $345 to $370 for the city treasurer and council members starting their posts in December.

All council members said they wanted to raise salaries for their successors. Councilmember Robert Gottschalk wanted to increase pay by $165 monthly; Gina Papan did not want to approve an increase without a recommendation by an independent panel; and Vice Mayor Nadia Holober voted against the salary hike because the group could not reach a consensus on figures.

“We’re just getting our footing, financially speaking,” Papan said. “We have a reserve now that we’re very proud of. There are a lot of exciting things happening in Millbrae; we have to evaluate the city as a whole.”

They’ll need to approve a raise before the new council members come on board or wait for another two years.

“I don’t see it coming back this year,” said Mayor Marc Hershman. Other council members agreed.

Millbrae council members are at the low end of the pay scale compared with their San Mateo County counterparts and have not received a pay increase since 1999.

“It’s not very much money, but we don’t do this for the money,” Holober said.

Council members, who also receive full health benefits and a retirement plan for their work, said they typically spend 10 to 20 hours per week on their job.

“My concern is that if it doesn’t get increased, future council members just will get further and further behind,” Gottschalk said.

Attempts to raise salaries never reached the council agenda in 2001 and 2005. The council revisited the issue in July because it can raise pay only for future members, and three current members will be termed out soon, City Manager Ralph Jaeck said.

The $25 monthly increase would have been easily managed by the city’s budget, according to a report by city staff.

Members of the Pacifica and Redwood City councils make the most in the county. East Palo Alto and San Carlos council members make the least for cities with at least 20,000 people.

Some small communities in Southern California such as Rancho Mirage have also recently raised council salaries to $2,500 a month to help attract more qualified candidates.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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