Should City Council be a full time job with full time pay? It’s up for discussion

Recommendations to reduce barriers to running include a salary increase for City Council members, whose current salary is $29,196

Does lack of pay and few benefits prevent the average person from a life of public service in Palm Springs? The City Council is about to dive into the issue.

The news: Council members will discuss measures to reduce barriers to running for and serving as an elected official here during their next meeting on Thursday.

State of play: Recommendations to reduce barriers to running include a salary increase for City Council members, whose current base salary is $29,196 according to the report. 

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  • The report argues that such a low salary limits the pool of candidates to people who are retired or independently wealthy. It forces other candidates to split their time between another job if they want to support themselves and a family.

  • The Council will discuss pitfalls to this recommendation, including who decides if elected leaders get a salary increase and what the increase should be based on. 

Also at issue: One of the major barriers to serving is childcare. Working families rarely have adequate representation on city councils, but if subsidized childcare was provided through City Hall, residents with childcare responsibilities might have more of an incentive to run for office.

  • The staff report lays out several questions on childcare, including whether it would be through existing providers, reimbursements, or through a new city program, such as an onsite childcare facility for councilmembers and staff.  

The report notes that the price of childcare in Riverside County ranges from about $8,000 to $12,000 annually, or about 20% of an average family’s income.

FWIW: In California last year, similar sized cities paid individual councilmembers between $0 and $44,923 in “total compensation.” Palm Springs, with a population listed as 44,397 (which is out of date), was the highest paying city with a population between 44,000 and 45,000. Average pay for its five councilmembers in 2021 was $35,419.

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