The city of Palm Desert has dropped from its number one ranking, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The City Council is no longer the highest paid in the Coachella Valley. Councilmembers voted unanimously to cut their paychecks in half! Yes, you heard right. Their paychecks will go from $50,000 to $22,500 a year.
“What we did is we put together a committee of five citizens—people who are involved in the city—asked them to do some research and come up with a recommendation. One recommendation was to drop our pay by 50%. We agreed that was fair as public servants to the citizens of Palm Desert,” said Mayor Bob Seigel.
The Council voted to form the Committee in order to avoid voting on its own salaries.
The Committee had one more recommendation: that each councilmembers’ health benefits be capped at $7,500 a year and cover only the councilmembers, not their dependents.
Councilmembers receive nearly $20,000 a year in medical benefits.
“I don’t agree with that. I’m married and my wife is on my benefits. If I take her off, I’ll have to pay a big chunk for her benefits, dropping my salary to about $13,000 a year,” said the mayor. “All of the other nine cities in the Coachella Valley include family members in their benefits packages, we should continue this in Palm Desert.”
California Forward has been talking with people around the state for years and they’ve told us they want a government they can trust.
“That’s one of those things city councils have the power to do. This is a positive thing, the more open a government is, the better,” said Fred Silva, Senior Fiscal Policy Advisor, California Forward.
“Very few cities in the state have city councilmembers who are full time. I think cities are better off not having councilmembers whose sole means of employment is sitting on the council. The city council person is there as a civic obligation, not a career, unlike our state legislators where we actually ask them to represent us full time,” said Silva.
The Palm Desert city council will vote on the benefits recommendation in late September.