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Council says no to salary reductions

VISTA — City Council members rejected by a vote of 3-2 an impromptu measure to reduce their own salaries by 5 percent at the regular meeting March 24. Councilmen Steve Gronke and Frank Lopez voted in favor.
Vista’s council members each get a $1,928.72 taxable monthly salary and a $500 taxable automobile allowance. The mayor gets $2,121.59 and a $600 car allowance.
The pay cut was introduced by Gronke as an amendment to an ordinance that would combine the auto allowances and salaries for bookkeeping simplicity.
“I think it’s about time for this council to step up and show some support for our city and take a payroll cut,” Gronke said, noting that 34 city positions remained unfilled for lack of funds.
“I’m sure there’s no one up here that couldn’t use the money, but I have to agree with Mr. Gronke that we have to make the effort, too,” Lopez chimed in.
City Manager Rita Geldert pointed out that the city staff salaries are scheduled to be negotiated as a group as part of balancing the budget. Council paychecks will likely be affected along with everyone else’s.
“Obviously it’s a symbolic gesture, but considering the number of people we have lost, that we’ve had to let go, I take that rather personally,” Gronke said.
Gronke’s proposal was met with a cold reception from the other three council members.
“I don’t make very much money doing what I do, and I do an awful lot of work for the city and I’m really not prepared at this point based on what I earn to really give back much,” Councilman Robert Campbell said.
Campbell pointed out that as the city’s development director in the 1990s, he had offered back 10 percent of his salary to help balance the budget. He said he wanted to wait for the group negotiations to make any commitments. Councilwoman Judy Ritter echoed his comments.
The amendment was defeated and the original ordinance passed 3-2. Mayor Morris Vance said afterward that the proposal had come out of nowhere, and that he not had the chance to consider it, let alone vote for it. He added that he preferred a pragmatic gesture over a symbolic one.
“After we go through the process of putting our budget together and negotiating and then finding out where we are, if the council still wants to do it, I’ll be willing to look at it,” Vance said.