Goleta voters will be asked to choose in November whether or not to raise the Goleta City Council’s compensation from the current $585 per month to $3,500. In recommending the salary jump, the Public Engagement commissioners spoke of the high cost of housing on the South Coast and the need to ensure that anyone who was popularly voted onto the council would be able to finish his or her term. The commission— formed to increase the inclusiveness of council candidates after a threatened lawsuit over district elections — considered the need for ethnic and socioeconomic diversity in the council makeup, as well as the 30 to 40-plus hours the council and mayor sometimes put in, especially during times like budget talks.
The issue went back and forth between the commission and the City Council a few times in May and June, as the finer points of the underlying Census information became clearer. Did they use the population from the 93117 zip code — which included some, but not all, of the city as well as unincorporated areas like Isla Vista — or should they use the Census information on Goleta alone?
On Tuesday evening, the councilmembers approved the ballot question, though some had previously expressed concerned over the appearance of impropriety that they were voting on their own salaries. In fact, James Kyriaco, a commissioner who is running for the council in November, had recused himself from the discussion and vote. Commission staffer Carmen Nichols had observed that the recommendation was coming from the commission and that the councilmembers were simply allowing it to go to a ballot or not, so that voters could decide. The commissioners also thought the salary increase, if approved, should begin after the election to encourage more people to stand for election in 2020.
November’s ballot measure will consider annual salaries: councilmembers’ at 75 percent of nonfamily household median income in the City of Goleta — or $42,124 per year. Additionally, the measure asks the same for the mayor, albeit at a 90 percent amount — or $50,561 — in recognition of the additional duties that befall the official representative of the town.