The San Marcos City Council voted on its own compensation Tuesday night. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By ANDY SEVILLA
The San Marcos City Council approved the first of two readings for council compensation Tuesday night in a 4-3 vote.
After citizens gave council the go-ahead to set compensation in the November 2008 election, councilmembers settled this summer on $750 per month for the mayor and $500 per month for councilmembers before sending the proposal back to city staff.
The matter came to vote less than two weeks before a Nov. 3 city council election with two seats at stake.
Voting in favor of the compensation were Councilmembers Gaylord Bose, Pam Couch, Chris Jones and Fred Terry. Voting in opposition were Councilmembers Kim Porterfield and John Thomaides, along with Mayor Susan Narvaiz.
Thomaides, who is running for re-election against challengers Monica Garcia and Anita Fuller, said at Monday night’s League of Women Voters debate that he would vote against council compensation.
Narvaiz said during Tuesday during the council’s compensation discussion that Thomaides had offered the $500 and $750 figures for consideration in a May 21 council compensation discussion.
Thomaides, in an effort to clear the record, said he offered those numbers only after the proposed figures by Narvaiz, of $12,000 per year for councilmembers and $24,000 per year for the mayor, “were too much.”
Narvaiz said the discussion had to be financially elevated so that it could be worked down during the discussion. She said the figures she proposed were high, but were brought about by surveying comparable and surrounding cities.
In the May 21 discussion, Thomaides originally proposed a stipend of $200 per meeting. He said he didn’t want to greatly surpass a measure rejected by San Marcos voters in 2006, calling for council compensation at $100 per meeting, not to exceed $300 per month.
“We did start at a higher point, and we all agreed on the figures before us for consideration,” Narvaiz said.
Narvaiz was the first to caution councilmembers that if an amendment urging for “third party review” and “oversight” of council reimbursement and travel expenses were not added to the ordinance, she would have to go against it. Narvaiz proposed that council reimbursements and travel expense reports should undergo review by the city’s finance and audit committee quarterly in efforts towards transparency. Narvaiz is the chair of the city’s finance and audit committee.
“I do not have a problem with another set of eyes and checks and balances looking into these numbers,” Couch said.
Jones was perhaps the most vocal opposition to Narvaiz’ proposed amendment. He said he “recognize(d)” and “appreciate(d)” Narvaiz’ concern for transparency, but, added that “from the issue of how things are structured, city staff is given enough direction in ordinance” on which expenditures are reimbursable. Therefore, he said, an added “burden” for review is not necessary for the finance and audit committee.
“I’m also opposed to the additional reviews,” Thomaides said, adding that reimbursable expenditures are “pretty clear cut.”
Said Thomaides, “I trust my colleagues and I trust the citizens. If you want to see my reports, you’re more than welcomed to. A simple call to City Hall can get you them.”
Said Narvaiz, “It’s just another process that tells the public we’re accountable.”
Bose said honesty is key.
“They voted for us because they trust us,” Bose said.
In a June meeting, councilmembers voted down compensation in a 4-2 tally. Jones and Terry voted to approve the measure, while Narvaiz, Porterfield, Thomaides, and Bose voted in opposition. Couch was not present at that meeting, nor to the council compensation discussion in May.
“Good people will serve without pay,” Bose said in the June council meeting before voting against compensation. “But if it’s necessary, I agree with (compensation), but we need to have more discussion.”
Jones and Terry have been in support of council pay since its first discussion. Porterfield has opposed compensation because of the local ripples felt from the national economic crisis, though, she has said she understands the reasons for remuneration. Like Porterfield, Narvaiz and Thomaides voted against the measure in June, citing the economic downtrend.
Current policy affords the city’s legislators expense reimbursements of $12,000 per year for councilmembers and $16,000 per year for the mayor.
The proposed legislation that passed on first reading Tuesday will come up for a second vote. The ordinance allows councilmembers and the mayor to accept the funds, add them to their expense stipends, or decline the funds.Email | Print