Nine of the 10 bargaining units representing City of Santa Barbara employees have agreed to defer 2.5 percent in pay increases already negotiated, thus saving City Hall $2.3 million for fiscal year 2021. This came in response to the drastic financial damage wrought by COVID-19. Only the firefighters’ bargaining unit is still negotiating terms and conditions of any pay deferrals. This savings also includes 2.5 percent pay cuts for managers and department heads. City Administrator Paul Casey and City Attorney Ariel Calonne are taking a 5 percent pay cut.
So far this year, COVID has cost City Hall $10 million in lost revenues and additional expenses. Over the next two years, the city is estimated to lose around $30 million.
The mayor and councilmembers had been automatically awarded pay increases of 10.72 percent this year, reflecting last year’s gains. In response to the pandemic, Mayor Cathy Murillo and councilmembers Oscar Gutierrez, Meagan Harmon, and Alejandra Gutierrez have declined to accept their pay increases. Councilmember Eric Friedman opted to accept the raise and then donate it to the city’s Library Foundation, on which he served. Councilmember Kristen Sneddon accepted the raise but chose not to accept the city’s health coverage. And Councilmember Mike Jordan opted to accept only a 5 percent increase.
Editor’s Note: It should be acknowledged that Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo and all six of the councilmembers had no legal choice but to “accept” the 10.7 percent pay increase. Compensation for the mayor and councilmembers is not a matter of negotiation or personal choice so much as an automatic and mandatory matter that was written into the city charter when voters approved a ballot initiative in the 1990s — backed by both the business community and progressive activists — that was designed to increase council compensation. The thinking was this would help diversify the council by making public office more financially viable. This year, in response to the fiscal violence inflicted by COVID, most councilmembers “accepted” their pay increases and then donated it back to the general fund. Some, like Eric Friedman, “accepted” the pay increase and then donated it to the Santa Barbara Library Foundation. Councilmember Kristen Sneddon accepted the increase — worth about $4,800 — but then declined to accept the council’s insurance coverage, donating the money thus saved — about $22,000 — to the general fund. All councilmembers will be taxed on the additional income. Councilmember Mike Jordan opted to “accept” just enough to pay off the increased tax liability the pay raise triggered and donated the remainder — about half — into the general fund.