Serving on a local city council can often times put officeholders in the eye of a storm. They are the first to get called day,night, and weekends if motorists hit a pothole, when dogs are barking, when traffic lights aren’t working, when constituents are outraged about a business closing, a vote taken, and myriad other issues.
That work as a public servant in Rancho Mirage comes with some perks that aren’t too shabby if you’re lucky enough — and tough enough — to secure one of the sought-after seats on the part-time City Council.
Each of the five members on the City Council receives a monthly salary, mileage, per diem, health benefits and retirement benefits, according to City Clerk Kristie Ramos.
The mayor, a position that currently rotates annually among City Council members, earns $2,843 per month. Members of the City Council each earn $2,593 per month.
In addition to bi-monthly City Council meetings, councilors sit on various boards, including the Library, Observatory, and Housing Authority boards. Council members receive $50 per diem for attendance at each of those board meetings.
The city pays 100 percent of councilors’ medical, vision and dental insurance, according to Ramos. Current members of the City Council are G. Dana Hobart, Richard Kite, Iris Smotrich, Charles Townsend Vinci and Ted Weill.
The city’s cost for health insurance for Hobart, Kite, Smotrich and Weill is $1,397.92 per month for each of them. Townsend’s health insurance costs the city $345.97.
In addition, for Hobart, Kite, Smotrich and Weill, the city pays $128.47 per month for their dental insurance; Townsend’s dental insurance costs the city $65.92 per month.
The city pays $40.20 per month for each of the current members’ vision insurance.
The city also puts money into a medical reimbursement account for each member. It put $3,000 per year into the account for single participants and $6,000 per year for participants with a spouse. A health reimbursement account is an IRS-approved, employer-funded, tax-advantaged employer health benefit plan that reimburses employees for out-of-pocket medical expenses and individual health insurance premiums.
As government employees, each member of the City Council is also eligible for retirement benefits through California Public Employees’ Retirement System, commonly known as CalPERS. It is an agency in the California executive branch that manages pension and health benefits for more than 1.6 million California public employees, retirees, and their families.
Retirement benefits are based on a formula, rather than contributions and earnings to a savings plan. Retirement benefits are calculated based on a member’s years of service credit, age at retirement, and final compensation (average salary for a defined period of employment). Public agencies are required to contribute a percentage of the total member payroll as determined by an actuarial valuation
The city has three different PERS plans, which are dictated by date of hire – or in council members’ case the date of being elected. For Kite, Hobart and Smotrich, the city contributes 2.5 percent at age 55. Weill receives a 2 percent contribution at age 60 and Townsend receives a 2 percent contribution at age 62.
Elected officials follow the same policies as employees and commissioners when it comes to travel. They receive $60 per diem for meals and are reimbursed for miles driven when on official travel outside the Coachella Valley at the IRS approved rate of $0.545. per mile.
Three candidates have emerged to challenge the incumbents in the April election. They are Michael Harrington, Robert “Bob” Mueller and Katherine “Kate” Spates.