CALEXICO – Brought forth by Council Member Armando Real and accompanied by a passionate debate, the Calexico City Council voted 3-1 in favor of slashing their salaries by 25 percent in addition to giving up their health insurance benefits during the council’s regular board meeting Wednesday.
Real began the meeting suggesting the council give up all their salaries and health insurance benefits, which immediately turned into an in-depth discussion.
“City employees recently took a cut, therefore I believe that we (council members) too should pay for the situation the city is in,” said Real. “We are public servants and we should do this for free.”
Opposing to the cut, Council Member Joong S. Kim said giving up health insurance was a safety issue and therefore, he opposed it.
“The purpose of insurance is safety on the job, and also, this is discriminating against people who don’t have insurance and ran for this position,” said Kim.
Council Member John Moreno said serving on a city council was not a full time job, and therefore agreed to the cut.
“I agree with Mr. Real, and think that it’s in the best interest of the council to cut our benefits,” said Moreno. “When I ran for city council, I did not run because of the insurance.”
Bill Hodge, a newly-elected council member, approached the board from the audience and opposed to the cuts, saying the $600 monthly salary was not enough to compensate for the hours council members worked.
“I am very much against all of the cuts that are happening,” Hodge said. “However, city council members work very hard and put in more than 30 hours per week, and for a measly six hundred bucks a month, which sometimes can come in handy, I think this is a ridiculous request,” he said. “If we were making $1,200, that would be a different story, but for the 30 to 40 hours that I will be putting in per week, including the gas and city council meetings twice a month and not taking a pay is unacceptable. This is ridiculous.”
Calexico resident Jason Jung spoke in favor of the cuts, saying the council members too should take a cut, not just city employees.
Lorena Minor, a Calexico city employee, stepped up to the podium and said she understood the time city council puts in, however she expected they take a pay cut like she did.
“I took a 30 percent cut and because of that loss, many of my close friends in this city because I signed the new contract and therefore you council members should set the example for the love of your city,” said Minor. ”I am tired of the employees carrying this on their back. Don’t be a Donald Trump.”
According to Real, the cost of health insurance per council member per year runs between $11,000 to $15,000, and said this would definitely save the city a good amount of money.
After a lengthy discussion of pros and cons, the board voted 3-1 with Kim voting against, to reduce the monthly salary by 25 percent in addition to eliminating health insurance, effective immediately.