How much should local politicians be paid by the public?

It varies across Orange County, with county supervisors getting six-figure compensation packages. At the city level, politician pay varies — with the Huntington Beach mayor making as much as $1700 a month and council members in Placentia making $150. 

Fountain Valley city council members were the latest to debate the issue this month when the council discussed whether or not they should more than double their monthly payments.

City council members are currently compensated $500 each month for their work in the city without benefits. 

This amount was set over 25 years ago, and city staff recommended last month that the council increase the monthly amount to $1125 to keep up with inflation and match nearby cities.

But a split council ultimately said no, voting 3-2 against increasing their pay.

Councilmember Glenn Grandis voted against the council salary increase last month, saying he already doesn’t accept the $500 each month, instead donating it to an autism charity.

“I consider being up here a volunteer position,” Grandis said at the meeting. “The reasons why we do this should not be compensation.”

Councilmembers Ted Bui and Jim Cunneen also opposed the item because it would give the city a bad look and may seem self-serving.

“What would I read in the paper tomorrow about this?” Cunneen said at the meeting. “What would it say? ‘Fountain Valley City Council votes to more than double their pay’ — it doesn’t feel good.”

Mayor Kim Constantine and Councilmember Patrick Harper supported the increase, saying it’s appropriate to increase compensation in line with surrounding cities. 

City council compensation across the county varies.  

There are only a handful of cities that pay their council members $1000 or more each month — including Anaheim, Buena Park, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach and Santa Ana.

Anaheim pays council members a base pay of $1500 each month — one of the highest in the county. 

Next door, Garden Grove council members increased their base paychecks from $486 to $1312 early last year.

In Huntington Beach, each council member receives a base pay of about $1200 a month, and the mayor’s base paycheck is slightly more at about $1700 each month.

On the lower end, Placentia gives out $150 in base pay each month.

Villa Park is the only city in the county that doesn’t pay council members at all.

Council members in the City of Orange also used to serve without financial compensation until 2021, when the council voted to pay council members $600 per month.

But there’s more than just these monthly payments.

In cities like Villa Park and Fountain Valley, council members don’t receive any kind of benefits along with their payment.

But in other cities, monthly council member compensation skyrockets when considering monthly allowances and health, dental or vision benefits.

In Placentia, one of the cities with the lowest monthly base pay, council members have the option to opt into the city’s health plan, which can add up to nearly $2000 per month in addition to the monthly $150 base amount.

In Aliso Viejo, council members are only compensated $520 per month. But when considering benefits, that number spikes up to about $2800 per month for each council member.

That’s $33,600 annually for each council member.

In Irvine, council members have a monthly base pay of $880, but an auto allowance, insurance premiums and pension costs bring that monthly payment to about $3500 for the mayor and about $2300 for council members.

That’s $42,000 annually for the mayor and $27,600 annually for the rest of the council.

Anaheim council members are paid $1500 each month, but when including health benefits, a meeting allowance and an auto allowance, the total monthly payment increases to about $2300.

That’s about $28,500 for each council member.

If Fountain Valley council members had approved the increase, that would have been about $13,500 annually per council member.

Instead, Fountain Valley’s monthly compensation will remain at $500.

“We’re up here to represent our constituents,” Bui said at the meeting. “They elect us to represent them, to have a voice for them where there’s issues where no one can stand up and help them voice those comments and concerns. Me personally, I’d be okay if we went $0”

Correction: Orange City Council was previously listed as not receiving additional benefits. Council members are able to receive limited medical and retirement benefits. We regret the error.

Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact her at or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.


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