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A committee created to review Santa Rosa's city charter is recommending that the city council agree to adding a ballot measure in November that would greatly increase the compensation for council members as well as the mayor. The committee's findings and recommendations will be presented to the council at Tuesday's meeting.

Cities in California have long grappled with city council compensation, which is by-and-large modest or bordering on poverty level in many municipalities. In Santa Rosa, council members are currently given $9,600 annually, paid in monthly stipends of $800, while the mayor receives $14,400 per year, amounts that have not changed since 2005. If a measure is introduced and passed this November, the elected officials will see a six-fold increase in their compensation.

The committee's recommendation that elected council members be better compensated points to several things. Though the community observes the elected officials working at council meetings twice per month on average, behind the scenes, council members are expected to read and absorb a voluminous amount of reporting and analysis about everything from pavement condition indexes to fentanyl overdoses.

They respond to constituents calls and emails, show up at community meetings and events, and many are expected to serve on other boards and commissions at the same time. Then there's the equity issue. Since pay for council members is far from a living wage, the position attracts retirees and other people with the time and means, leaving out people from different demographics that might want to serve but simply can't with a full-time job, childcare concerns, and no substantive compensation.

All of the reasons above went into Berkeley adopting a measure in 2020 that gives the mayor compensation equal to that of the median income for a three-person household in Alameda County. The council receives 63 percent of that number. The Santa Rosa City Charter committee would like to see that same metric applied to council members and the mayor, giving voters the final say.

In real numbers, that means the mayor of Santa Rosa would be compensated $101,500 and council members would be paid around $67,000, according to Sonoma County's figures.

If placed on the ballot and passed by voters, compensation for mayor and council would be adjusted annually in July, the proposed amendment to the charter reads.

But that's if it passes. Voters in Sonoma County rejected a similar measure in 2002, with over 60 percent of voters saying no.

The Santa Rosa City Council meets on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in council chambers at 100 Santa Rosa Ave. in Santa Rosa. 

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