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Council opts to voluntarily return 10% of stipends
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The man who said the least is the one who is giving back the most.

Manteca’s City Council Tuesday unanimously voted to voluntarily forfeit  10 percent of their stipends as council members and redevelopment agency commissioners in a move characterized by Councilman Vince Hernandez as  showing solidarity with municipal workers and by Council member Debby Moorhead as “being the right thing to do.”

That figures out to $56 a month once the $500 council stipend is added to two monthly RDA meetings at $30 apiece.

Manteca Councilman John Harris, though, has been giving the city back $150 of his municipal stipends for the past several months.

He started it quietly and without fanfare much like his the discussion on Tuesday.

The non-binding vote emphasized the voluntary return of the money each month as City Attorney John Brinton noted state law precludes the council from adjusting their pay. For general law cities like Manteca, it is all set by government code with stipends based on population levels. That means as Manteca grew, council pay increased from $200 a month up to the $500 level it is at today.

The last years of increases in stipends coincided with Manteca breaking various population thresholds in 1967, 1983 and 1998.

Council members will still get paid the full amount and then return 10 percent of their compensation -or in Harris’ case 30 percent – back to the city. Brinton said that is the only way it can legally be done according to a ruling by the California Attorney General’s office based on state laws governing general law cities.

 Municipal workers agreed to take a 3.8 percent pay reduction starting July 1 to help the city deal with the budget crisis. They are taking the pay cut through unpaid furlough days.

That move will save the city $1.2 million. The pay cut will be distributed throughout the fiscal year but most of the actual forced furlough days will occur during the holidays resulting in closing city hall for the week of Thanksgiving and the week after Christmas.

Essential employees such as police, firefighters, refuse workers, as well as sewer and water workers will have their unpaid furloughs spread out during the course of the year.

Council members receive no other monetary compensation besides the stipends. They tend to use the council stipends to cover expenses they incur as a council member including attending various community events where tickets are required.

Moorhead and Weatherford both take health insurance that is available to municipal employees. Weatherford’s arrangement, though, has part of his health insurance covered by a reduction in his Public Employment Retirement Service pension from his days serving as Manteca’s police chief before retiring.

Hernandez, Moorhead, and Weatherford access the municipal dental and health plans.

DeBrum and Harris do not avail themselves of either the health or the dental-vision plans.