The San Marcos City Council voted against accepting compensation Tuesday night. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
(Editor’s note: The following has been revised to correct the order of the vote and include a new quotation from Councilmember Chris Jones.)
By ANDY SEVILLA
Less than a month after agreeing that city staff should draft an ordinance establishing a pay scale for San Marcos elected officials, those same officials voted Tuesday night against accepting the compensation.
As the result of a suspenseful vote at Tuesday’s meeting of the San Marcos City Council, the mayor and councilmembers will continue working without pay for the time being, even though voters last November passed a proposition allowing them to set their own remuneration.
At a May 21 meeting to discuss preliminary budget matters, councilmembers debated figures for about 45 minutes before settling on $500 per month for councilmembers and $750 per month for the mayor.
However, three weeks of stewing apparently produced a change of heart as councilmembers went through the roll call without even discussing the matter in open session Tuesday night.
Once City Clerk Sherry Mashburn read the ordinance for consideration, Councilmember Chris Jones promptly motioned for approval, followed by a second from Councilmember Fred Terry. At that point, the dais fell silent and Mayor Susan Narvaiz asked Mashburn to call the roll.
Though only about a half-dozen citizens remained in chambers after the council tabled an additional watering day earlier in the evening, an air of disquiet filled the room as the vote began. First, Terry said, “Aye.”
The tide turned when Councilmember Kim Porterfield voted against the motion. Next, Narvaiz voted against, then Councilmembers John Thomaides and Gaylord Bose voted against their own earnings, clinching a majority against council compensation. Jones, casting the final vote, went in favor of the defeated motion.
“(I) could have easily voted ‘no’ to save face, but did not, because I believe council pay levels the playing field for anyone who wants to be a councilmember,” Jones said, “unlike our make-up today where many of my colleagues own their own businesses or serve as a director of community relations.”
Said Porterfield, who was one of the stronger voices against compensation at last month’s budget meeting, “When I ran for this job, it was unpaid public service. That’s what I signed up for.”
Said Narvaiz after the 4-2 vote, “I think that right now, in our current economic climate, it would not be appropriate. We’re just beginning to look at the budget. We need to make sure that the public’s needs are met first. And then we can move forward and agree on what a reasonable compensation would look like.”
The city’s legislators will continue receiving their expense reimbursements, which come to $12,000 per year for councilmembers and $16,000 per year for the mayor.
“Good people will serve without pay,” Bose said. “But if it’s necessary, I agree with (compensation), but we need to have more discussion.”
As the ripples of the national economic crisis are felt locally, Porterfield said she understands the “thinking” behind the compensation – to encourage participation for public office. But, she said, “it would be sending a bad message at this time.”
Narvaiz said council compensation is a step towards planning for the future, energizing “more people to run for office.”
Said Narvaiz, “I think it will come back. It’s not the end of the discussion. But it is the end of it for today.”
Councilmember Pam Couch was not present at Tuesday night’s meeting, nor at the budget discussion last month.Email | Print