Stipend increase under review

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By SUNNY LOCKWOOD

Angels Camp's mayor wants to increase the stipends paid to city council members.

Currently members receive $200 per month and the mayor receives $225.

Mayor Debbie Ponte told the council Tuesday that the government code allows stipends up to $300 per council member for a city the size of Angels Camp.

The mayor said she would like to see the council increase stipends to that level and make the mayor's $400 per month.

Although council members Curley Middleton and Dorian Faught supported the idea, Cheryl Cowden did not. "I have a problem with asking people to dig deeper into their pockets right now," she said.

Ponte responded, "There will always be something. I've struggled with this since the Darby Fire when I spent more time on (city business) than my own employment."

When City Administrator Tim Shearer pointed out that some cities provide their councils with a benefits package, Faught suggested that staff look into what a benefits package would cost.

Faught, who was appointed to the council by the flip of a coin in January, said she spent 23 hours in meetings last month, "and that's not counting the preparation time for those meetings. I think it's important to be compensated for some of that. It's important to justify the time invested with some monetary reward."

Ponte added that council members have increasing responsibilities and that "if we are to keep pace and get candidates to apply," the stipend should be increased.

City residents Valeska Gallagher and Eleanor Darby, who attended the meeting, said they approved of an increase in the stipend, but not a benefits package.

"It would be very, very expensive to have a benefit package for city council members," Darby said.

"I'd be against a benefit package, but I do believe you should have an increase in your stipend."

Ponte directed city staff "look at all the options and come back to council with some numbers attached to all of this," she said.

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