Despite budget cuts, San Diego's next mayor in line for massive raise

Posted at 6:14 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 12:27:53-04

SAN DIEGO — The coronavirus is leading to an unprecedented budget deficit at City Hall, but that isn't stopping the city from budgeting a massive raise for its next mayor.

The candidate who voters select in November 2020 is scheduled to earn a salary of $206,000 per year. That's more than double Mayor Kevin Faulconer's current salary of $101,000.

City Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry and State Assemblyman Todd Gloria, both Democrats, are headed to the November runoff. Both said they would take voluntary pay cuts if the city is in a dire financial position when they raises take effect Dec. 10.

Additionally, that same day City Council member salaries will grow from $75,000 per year to $124,000, a 65 percent increase.

This week, Faulconer, who is termed out in 2020, announced a $250 million tax revenue shortfall amid coronavirus restrictions. He's now proposing a budget to eliminate 350 city positions and to reduce hours at City libraries, rec centers, and pools.

But while the city proposes cuts across the board, the one area officials cannot vote on is salaries for the mayor, City Council and City Attorney.

That's because in 2018, voters approved Measure L. The measure, an ethics reform proposal, eliminated the conflict of interest for elected officials to set their own salaries, and instead tied them to Superior Court Judges.

It also eliminated the car allowance and banned officials from accepting tickets to sporting events they did not pay for.

Bob Ottilie, the attorney who wrote Measure L, said the city's elected officials hadn't seen a pay raise in more than 15 years.

"They had fallen about 40 percent behind where they were in purchasing power, and what we were seeing was that the quality of individuals that were elected to office was gradually deteriorating," he said.

The measure passed with 78 percent voter approval. Former City Councilman Carl DeMaio said it got such overwhelming support because the question did not include pay rates, just that it would tie salaries to Superior Court judges.

"Voters approved a measure that really did not, in its title or summary, emphasize the massive salary increase the mayor and city council would receive," he said.

The measure did not include an emergency cancellation clause - hence eliminating the politics - but officials can personally decline to accept the money.

"If I'm the mayor and we are still in dire circumstances, I would ask everybody to take voluntary paycuts, including myself," Bry said in an interview.

In a statement, a spokesman for Gloria said this was a premature discussion and that the public health crisis was ongoing.

"It’s impact on the City’s budget is still unfolding," spokesman Nick Serrano said. "And of course the election has not happened yet. That said – as a Councilmember, Todd voluntarily took a pay cut when the City was facing a massive budget deficit during the Great Recession. If elected in November and the City’s budget is not in balance, Todd would lead by example again."

The measure also increases the City Attorneys salary by $12,000 to $206,000, the same as the mayors.

In all, the raises would cost the city $560,000 this fiscal year, which is 0.014 percent of its proposed $3.9 billion budget.