Should Modesto Mayor Jim Ridenour get a threefold raise this summer, or should the city increase his pay seven times over?
That's one of the questions five volunteers are weighing while they try to determine a fair wage for the city's elected leaders.
They agree on one point: The $800 monthly stipends City Council members receive aren't enough for the job.
In some months, they say, that wage isn't even enough to cover expenses for doing city business, such as traveling or attending ceremonial events.
But the consensus ends there for the appointed members of Modesto's new salary-setting commission.
Some say the mayor should earn an annual salary greater than $50,000, particularly because of his new authority to influence the city budget and set goals for city executives.
Voters gave him that power last month when they passed Measure M, the Increase Accountability in City Hall Measure. The measure also called for the creation of a salary commission, giving it the discretion to recommend wages of up to $88,800 for the mayor and $26,800 for other council members. The mayor makes $800 a month.
Commission member Dave Thomas wants to keep the mayor's pay below $40,000, primarily because Modesto rests the bulk of its executive power in the city manager's office. That system doesn't give the mayor the executive capacity to warrant more pay, Thomas said.
His colleagues on Thursday aired out those concerns. They're leaning toward recommending a range for the mayor's pay, and then letting residents sound off on their suggestions at public hearings March 31 and April 10.
Among the questions they're still weighing:
Should they consider Ridenour's performance when setting the wage or base their recommendation on a hypothetical future mayor?
Most of the commission members favor Ridenour's style; Thomas was critical, calling the council irresponsible with public money.
How much consideration should they give to comparisons with other cities?
California cities take hundreds of approaches to setting salaries for their council members. Merced comes in at the low end, paying council members $20 a month.
Stockton pays its mayor $82,172 a year; its council members get $22,680. That city was the model for Modesto's Measure M.
Four members of the Stanislaus Taxpayers Association on Thursday urged the salary commission to set a relatively low wage for the mayor. Thomas belongs to that group.
The commission is scheduled to meet again on Monday. Its first pay recommendations are due March 28.
Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2366.