In a nod to Modesto's tight finances, a public panel is recommending that City Council members should not get a raise this year.
The salary-setting commission says the council and mayor should keep their pay as is, with council members allowed to make up to $2,000 a month or $24,000 a year, and the mayor's pay capped at $3,600 a month or $43,200 a year.
The commission voted 4-1 to keep salaries the same.
"The city is facing a lot of economic challenges," said panel chairman Hugh Rose III. "This isn't the time to be increasing wages when everybody else's is getting cut."
Panel member Dave Thomas, who is co-chairman of the Stanislaus Taxpayers Association, voted against the recommendation. He said he believes council members should have their pay reduced because he doesn't approve of their performance.
"We don't have effective management, and the only way to communicate that is to lower salaries," Thomas said. "They make a lot of bad decisions. The reason we're in trouble today is because this council for the last six to eight years has given away the store in terms of salaries."
Thomas was referring to city employee salaries, not salaries paid to council members.
Rose said the panel's recommendation is meant to reflect the demands of council members' jobs, not their performance. "We're not grading the existing incumbents, we're grading the job," Rose said. "The people change, but the job doesn't."
Council members can opt to take less than the recommended salary.
Modesto has a shortfall of at least $8 million to $10 million in its general fund this year, which means pay cuts and layoffs are possible for city workers.
Councilman Dave Geer urged the panel to keep budget woes in mind and asked for no salary increase. No other council members submitted comments.
Mayor Jim Ridenour asked the panel not to cut his pay. Ridenour said lowering the mayor's salary would mean only the wealthy or the retired would run for the job.
The salary-setting commission meets every two years to review council salaries. The panel was created when voters passed Measure M, a set of government reforms, in 2008.
When the salary-setting commission reviewed council salaries in 2008, it recommended raises for the mayor and City Council members. Council members' pay was increased to $2,000 a month from $800. The mayor's pay was increased to $3,600 a month from $800.
Council members Brad Hawn and Garrad Marsh declined the 2008 raise. Last year, Ridenour, Hawn and council members Dave Lopez and Kristin Olsen volunteered for 5 percent pay cuts in light of the city's budget troubles. Geer, elected in 2009, receives the full council salary. Joe Muratore, also elected in 2009, opted for the 5 percent cut.
The City Council is scheduled to review the pay recommendation at its April 27 meeting.