The Fresno City Council has approved perks worth more than $13,000 annually for its members.
By a 4-1 vote, the council on Thursday consented to a Dyer administration proposal to participate in receiving money in the city’s deferred compensation plan. They also voted to increase reimbursements for expenses for the first time in 33 years.
The resolution was buried in a multi-item request that also affected other HR policies — like changing what type of compensation is considered a “bonus,” and increasing administrative leave time for top executives. The action also shifted some positions from the mayor’s office to create a new budget division.
Miguel Arias, Tyler Maxwell, Luis Chavez, and Nelson Esparza voted in favor of the motion. Garry Bredefeld opposed. Mike Karbassi stepped away from the dais during the vote, and Esmeralda Soria did not attend the meeting.
TJ Miller, interim personnel director, presented a matter-of-fact update in three minutes. She did not mention how much councilmembers would be entitled to as part of the deferred compensation package. No councilmember offered a comment or debate.
Unlike the uproar when the council voted to raise members’ salaries significantly last June, no one from the public complained.
Alternative to City’s Retirement Plan
The city’s deferred compensation plan is different than the city’s retirement (or pension) program. The city’s municipal code says explicitly that “elected officers” are ineligible for that system.
To compensate for this lost opportunity, the administration’s plan is to contribute money on behalf of elected officials. The deferred compensation program rules allow for participation from elected officials. The plan allows any employee to set aside income into a “tax-deferred, long-term retirement program,” the city website says.
“Deferred compensation is meant to be a long-range savings plan and should be used as a way to supplement your retirement income,” the city says.
“Staff is recommending that the City contribute an amount to the Mayor and Councilmembers at a comparable percentage (11%) as if they were in the City’s retirement system and the City were making contributions as it does for employees,” a 178-page staff report said.
Starting Jan. 1, that means the city will contribute up to $10,120 per elected official a year. That number grows to $12,245 by 2025.
The plan may not apply to current Mayor Jerry Dyer. There is a provision that “any elected officials who is a retiree and drawing retirement payments … do not qualify.”
Dyer is already in the system after serving four decades in the city’s police department.
Bredefeld said he supported participation in the program.
“Most people who work full-time jobs are provided an opportunity with their employer to participate in some kind of retirement plan. Why should those who choose to serve their community be any different?” Bredefeld texted GV Wire.
He explained that his “no” vote reflected his opposition to increasing the reimbursement for car/travel and general expenses.
The staff report also said that reimbursements have been stuck at 1989 levels.
The general expense allowance will rise by $585 for councilmembers ($623.75 for the council president), and $190 for the mayor. Meaning: the mayor will receive $850 a month, the council president $843.75, and councilmembers $750.
That is a 350% increase for the city council. The federal inflation calculator indicates that the increase since 1989 has been 146%.
The car/travel allowance will increase by $200 for the mayor to $500 monthly and $190 for councilmembers to $450.
On Heels of Approving Salary Increase
Last June, following the primary elections, the city council approved a 69% pay hike, taking effect when a councilmember is sworn in for a new term.
After an outcry from the public, the councilmembers opted for a gradual increase.
Currently, councilmembers are paid $80,000 annually. That will increase to $111,320 by 2025. The council president earns more. The raise also applied to the mayor.