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Council Raises Pay of Top Manager

City Manager John Pietig

City Manager John Pietig

The City Council adopted changes to the city’s 2014-15 budget last week, finalizing proposed uses for a $1.3 million windfall thanks to higher revenue estimates. The revisions, along with other tweaks, bring the budget to $51.7 million, up from the $49.7 million originally outlined in the two-year budget adopted last year.

The newly budgeted items include $1 million to offset unfunded pension liability, adding a sworn officer to the police force, funding a police K-9 program, and paying for expanded traffic control on Coast Highway, among others.

The revised budget also raised monthly stipends for Arts and Planning Commissioners, Design Review board members and Council members. The Council stipend is now $749, up from the $560 established in 2008. The Council also bestowed on themselves a new $80 per year perk: a parking permit for life for elected Council members past and present in reward for serving at least one full four-year term.

Separately, the Council okayed a 5 percent one-year performance bonus (costing $13,300) for City Manager John Pietig, the city’s highest paid employee and the only employee elected officials directly hire themselves. He also received 1 and 2 percent pay raises covering a three-year period, in step with hikes approved earlier for other city management employees. The raises will bring Pietig’s salary to $216,342 in July and to $220,669 in a year. His contract was also extended two years through June 2017.

“John hasn’t had an increase in salary for three years,” said Council member Kelly Boyd, though Pietig began contributing 2 percent of his pay to his retirement in January 2013, six months ahead of other management employees. Now, like other management, Pietig will step up his retirement contribution to 8 percent by 2015.

Pietig’s salary comes in below those of city managers in neighboring, albeit more populated, coastal communities, according to 2012 figures posted on the Government Compensation in California website maintained by the state’s controller John Chiang. The site shows that the city manager in Dana Point, population 33,863, earned $232,615; the city manager in Newport Beach, population 86,436, received $243,350; and in San Clemente, population 64,542, the city manager took in $273,563. The web site puts Laguna’s 2012 population at 23,105.

Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen described the contract adjustments as “very appropriate” since Pietig hasn’t had a raise since 2010, and pointed out his “excellent leadership” by being the last employee to get a raise, resolving all other employee negotiations first. “And I think he’s doing a good job,” concluded Whalen.

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