OAKLAND — Oakland City Council members got a 1.7 percent raise Monday night — a bump in pay most on the board are expected to reject.
The Oakland Public Ethics Commission unanimously approved the increase. The commission is bound by the city's charter to adjust council pay every year by at least the increase in the Consumer Price Index, which was 1.7 percent this past year.
The increase would raise council members' authorized annual salary from $72,859 to $74,098, but a majority of council members said Tuesday they would not accept the raise because Oakland is facing a $31.5 million deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
"I think it sends the wrong message," said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan. "I think we have to work very hard to balance the budget and to restore public trust, and taking a raise at this time would undermine that."
City Council President Jane Brunner and council members Kaplan, Pat Kernighan, Jean Quan, Ignacio De La Fuente and Larry Reid said they would not take the increase this year. Councilmember Desley Brooks she would be willing to do "something similar" to what the police union did last year, when officers agreed to postpone 4 percent pay raises until Jan. 1, 2013. Councilmember Nancy Nadel did not respond to phone and e-mail messages Tuesday.
Even if all eight council members rejected the increase, it would only amount to about $9,900 in savings — a pittance in the overall budget picture. Some of those who said they would give up the money said a raise would be unfair when other employees have taken salary cuts.
Last year, six council members — Brunner, Kernighan, Nadel, Quan, De La Fuente and Kaplan — voluntarily gave up their $6,600-a-year car allowances and agreed to a salary cut for compensation reductions totaling 10 percent, records show. Reid continues to collect the full salary but never has taken a car allowance.
Brooks continues to get the full $72,859 salary and car allowance, records show. Brooks has said she saves the city more money than any other elected official by doing work herself that others assign to paid staffers.
De La Fuente, meantime, said he will introduce a resolution urging his colleagues to voluntarily reject the recent pay increase. He wrote a letter before Monday's meeting asking the commission to vote the raise down.
But commissioners' hands are tied by Oakland's charter. Under 2004's Measure P, the charter says the commission "shall annually adjust the salary" for council members at least by "the increase in the Consumer Price Index over the preceding year."
Commissioners said that at their next meeting, they will begin to look at options for changing the current system. Any charter change, however, would have to go back to the voters.
"My feeling is that we do need to revisit what's written in the charter in terms of the mandatory pay raises," said Barbara Green-Ajufo, the commission's vice chair, adding that if she had the choice she would have voted against any raise this year.
A look at City Council members' annual salary in Oakland versus the salaries of counterparts in similarly sized California cities:
Santa Ana $1,500
Source: Oakland Public Ethics