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Council Members Vote Themselves 40% Pay Increase : Government: The monthly stipend is raised from $495 to $695. The city treasurer and clerk also get the raise, which will take effect after the Nov. 2 election.


MONTEBELLO — At a time when most Southeast cities are facing severe budget cuts, City Council members Tuesday night gave themselves a 40% pay increase.

The council voted 4-1 to raise the monthly stipend from $495 to $695 for council members and two other elected officials: the city treasurer and city clerk. The increases will take effect after the Nov. 2 municipal elections, when three council seats are on the ballot. According to state law, the pay raise cannot take effect until after the election.

Council members also voted to pay themselves $30 every time they meet as members of the city's redevelopment agency board, effective at the next meeting, Feb. 23. The council has received no extra pay for attending twice-monthly redevelopment agency meetings.

City officials pointed out that council members have not received an increase since 1985, and that the city has been able to balance its budget without cutting employees or programs.

"We're still operating in the black," said Ken Louie, assistant finance director. "We're generating a lot of sales tax from new development."

A staff report also pointed out that Montebello's council members are paid less than council members in five other nearby cities--Commerce, Norwalk, Pico Rivera, Rosemead and Santa Fe Springs. Norwalk's council members ranked at the top, receiving $761 a month. Santa Fe Springs council members receive $490 a month, plus $30 when council members meet as the city's redevelopment agency board.

The Montebello Unified School District board is paid $713 a month, the report also noted.

Councilman Edward C. Pizzorno voted against the pay increase and the new payment for attending redevelopment sessions.

"I think for the City Council to (increase their pay) is a slap in the face of the public," Pizzorno said. "We're here to serve, not to be served."

Pizzorno's protest was echoed by resident Larry Salazar, who called the pay increases outrageous. He was the only resident to speak on the issue.

"You're talking about wanting to get paid for what you do. To work on the council should be a privilege, not a job. We did not hire you, we elected you," said Salazar, who has twice run unsuccessfully for the council. Salazar, assistant city manager in Bell Gardens, said that the City Council there is paid $440 per month.

Other council members defended the increase.

"What we're talking about here is a very small council stipend," Councilman Art Payan said. "We're not here to try to make money; we would like to meet our expenses."

The last pay increase for the part-time positions of city clerk and city treasurer was in 1989.

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