Tustin voters will have the chance next year to approve a monthly salary for City Council members.
Editors’ Note: This dispatch is part of the Voice of OC Youth Media program, working with student journalists to cover public policy issues across Orange County. If you would like to submit your own student media project related to Orange County civics or if you have any response to this work, contact Digital Editor Sonya Quick at email@example.com.
The council has unanimously voted to add to the November 2020 ballot the question whether councilmembers should receive a $600 monthly salary. If approved, the compensation would not take effect until December 2022.
Until 2012, councilmembers received an $853 monthly salary as well as health, dental, and life insurance in addition to other benefits, according to a staff report. The other benefits will not be included on the 2020 ballot measure and will not be reinstated with the monthly salary if the measure passes.
In 2012, the City Council added a measure to the ballot asking voters to decide whether to eliminate compensation for councilmembers, according to a staff report. Voters opted to end the salary and benefits for all councilmembers.
According to a presentation during a November council meeting, there were multiple candidates running in each election for open council seats prior to the elimination of council compensation. In 2010, for example, eight candidates ran for two open seats. Since 2012, city council elections have had far fewer candidates.
Of the 34 cities in Orange County, 31 provide some amount of compensation to their councilmembers, with a median monthly salary of $681, according to a Tustin staff report.
“I don’t know why a $600 stipend would make or break their decision (to run for council),” said Councilmember Barry Cooper. He said he doesn’t believe the compensation will entice as many future candidates as is hoped.
Councilmember Austin Lumbard said the salary could provide enough incentive for those working hourly wage jobs or those who may need financial assistance while serving on the council.
Mayor Pro Tem Letitia Clark said that giving voters a say hands a significant decision over to them and that it will be important to educate voters on the workload and responsibilities of serving on the panel.