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City Council members today chose not to give themselves a 25-percent pay increase, instead referring the matter to the council’s Rules Committee and the newly empanelled Charter Review Commission.

The pay increase had been recommended by the city’s Salary Setting Commission, but was turned down last year as well.

A number of council members stressed that the position should pay better in the future to attract quality candidates, noting that the city risks attracting only the independently wealthy if it continues paying $75,000 a year.

“It’s hard to make ends meet,” said Councilman Ben Hueso, who pointed out that he is married with four children.

Council President Scott Peters noted that, with homes in Carmel Valley, in his district, selling for $795,000, it’s hard to find a candidate to run who can pay the mortgage with the council salary.

However, with Mayor Jerry Sanders preparing to cut 300 jobs and fill an $87 million budget gap, many found today’s proposal to be ill-timed.

The council voted 7-0 to decline the pay increase, with Councilman Jim Madaffer absent. It then voted 6-1 to forward the issue to the ongoing charter review process, with Councilman Brian Maienschein dissenting.

Before the vote, Peters asked the city attorney present at the meeting whether it was legal for council members to vote on the issue, considering the current legal trouble faced by six pension trustees. Deputy City Attorney Mark Blake said he didn’t know but could find out.

“I think it’s amusing that the city attorney can’t even tell us if it’s legal to vote or not,” Peters said.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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