Council increases councilmember stipend, considers moving elections

Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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The Winters City Council heard new legislation on election dates and city council stipends.

The council voted to increase future stipends from $150 per month to $300 per month. The council generally supported the measure as long overdue.

“I think that we should, after 15 years, increase the stipend,” said Councilmember Jesse Loren.

Loren also said that a higher stipend might help attract younger people to serve on the council.

“I think there’s some social equity that needs to be addressed,” Loren said.

Councilmembers Loren, Pierre Neu, Harold Anderson and Mayor Wade Cowan also supported the measure. Mayor Pro Tem Bill Biasi expressed reservations.

“I feel a little uneasy being in the position of voting ourselves a pay increase,” said Biasi. “We’re not in it for the money.”

He suggested that the item be placed as a ballot measure.

Public commenters also generally supported the measure. Tina Lowden advocated for an even higher rate of $500 per month.

“Since… I moved here, we’ve seen you all around the city,” Lowden said of the councilmembers’ involvement in the community.  “Look at the Tractor Parade, look at the 7,000 lights around the city. It’s just a wonderful commitment to who we are as a city.”

After removing a provision to allow for stipend increases beyond $300, all except Biasi voted in favor of the measure. The new salaries become effective at the next municipal election in 2022.

Election date move
The council also heard new legislation that would move city elections to coincide with federal  statewide elections in November. Previously, the elections took place alongside primaries in March and June.

City Manager Kathleen Salguero Trepa gave two reasons for the change: November elections have higher turnout and operations costs would decrease.

If adopted, the measure will extend the terms of  Neu, Cowan and Anderson to end after November 2022. Biasi and Loren’s terms, set to expire in March 2024, would be extended to November 2024.

The council will vote on the measure after a second reading.

Other Business
In the City Manager’s report, Trepa commented on the Holiday Tractor Parade and Christmas tree lighting events.

“Our weekend of holiday hoopla, for my first year was epic,” Trepa said.

Biasi closed the meeting by speaking in remembrance of the city’s former long-time head of the “Sanitation Department” Ralph Gonzalez.

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