According to the report, in the fiscal year of 2009-10, Antioch’s five City Council members were paid a cumulative $112,591 – fifth most in Contra Costa County, although at 100,000 residents, Antioch is the county’s third most populous city.
The costs in the Grand Jury report include salary and/or meeting fees, health insurance, pension, deferred compensation and other costs.
Richmond, a city of 102,000 employing seven city council members, paid its council $267,139 – highest in the county. Next is San Ramon, with roughly 59,000 residents, at $163,000, followed by Martinez, with about 36,000 residents, at $131,326. The city that pays its council the fourth most is Concord, the county’s most populous city at more than 124,700 residents. Concord’s council earned a total of $128,262 in the 2009-10 fiscal year.
The report identified the cities that compensate council members more than the countywide average of $39,377 – Antioch, Concord, Danville, Hercules, Martinez, Richmond, San Pablo and San Ramon – and recommended that they examine the possibility of pay cuts.
“These cities … should consider whether it would be appropriate,” the report reads, “to implement reductions of salary and meeting fee expenditures to bring them in line with other cities.”
In a letter drafted last month and approved at a recent Antioch City Council meeting, Mayor Jim Davis agreed with the Grand Jury report’s suggestion that information on council pay should be more easily available to the public, but felt that simply using an average to compare Antioch with other cities in the county wasn’t pertinent.
The average takes into account the county’s biggest city, Concord, and it’s smallest, Clayton, which has a population roughly a tenth of Antioch’s.
“(W)e do question the value of a simple mathematical average as determinative as to what salaries and meeting fees are questionable,” Davis wrote in a letter to Judge John Laettner. “As the report indicates, these are cities of differing sizes. In addition, these city councils have differing meeting schedules and responsibilities, some cities have budgets of $50,000,000 and some budgets of $10,000,000.”
Brentwood, a town of about 50,000, paid its council a total of $91,998 in the 2009-10 fiscal year. Pittsburg, a city of roughly 63,000 people, compensated its council to the tune of $40,035 that year. Oakley, with 34,000 residents, paid its council $28,544, and provided no health care or pension benefits.
The report also recommended that Contra Costa County cities and special districts should conduct an annual public review of compensation to boards and councils, making clear the items of salary, meeting fees, health insurance, pension, life insurance, cell phone usage and Internet connections.
Davis responded that while this has not yet been implemented within Antioch, the city would work on it. He also noted that in 2009, in recognition of the recession, the council adopted a resolution encouraging elected officials to decrease their compensation.
“Certainly, an annual review of council compensation and benefits discussed above would consider whether reductions (or possibly increases) are appropriate,” Davis wrote in his letter. “We would suggest further analysis to determine what should be considered in looking at salary and meeting fee expenditures ‘in line with other cities’ beyond simply an average of salaries provided in a wide variety of cities.”
The Grand Jury report also examined compensation to the directors of its 27 largest special districts, and the results revealed a certain parity. The West County Wastewater District, which serves about 124,000 people, paid its board of directors $175,254 in the 2009-10 fiscal year – highest in the county. Second was the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District, which serves 451,900 residents. That district paid its directors $158,174.
Some of the more alarming numbers come with the third-highest-paid district – Byron-Bethany Irrigation. Though it serves only 3,000 residents, its directors were paid $105,380, including a county-high $99,684 in health care insurance costs.
Much as it did for the cities, the Grand Jury report recommended that the districts perform an annual review of board compensation.