Fountain Valley City Council member Steve Nagel confirmed last week he favors eliminating the monthly stipend and optional health, life and retirement benefits provided to the members of the council.
"We're in a time now where we need to look at all of our costs," Nagel said. "We don't pay our part-time people medical benefits, and we're part-time council people. I feel you shouldn't come into the position looking for extra benefits. To be responsible, and to be true to cutting our costs where we can, it's a wise move, and I'm just trying to bring some points forward so we can see if we're spending our money wisely."
Nagel first brought the issue up during the council's March 20 meeting. Each council member receives a monthly stipend of $475, and can also choose to accept health insurance, life insurance and a small pension from the city.
Every member of the council except for Michael Vo receives life insurance from the city, which provides $15,000 in benefits and costs $2.63 a month for each policy. The retirement plan offered to the council provides a monthly 26 percent pension based on the monthly stipend. Mayor John Collins and council member Larry Crandall are enrolled in the pension program.
The most costly optional benefit provided to council members is health insurance. Crandall and Mark McCurdy accept the city-provided insurance, the cost of which varies depending on the plan. Crandall's plan costs the city $575 a month, while McCurdy's costs $946 a month. McCurdy defended his decision to accept health insurance from the city, saying that it allows him to be more objective when making the sorts of important decisions that affect the city.
"It's not a huge amount, and it enables somebody who isn't rich to work this way without being dependent upon special interests," he said. "It gives them a sense of independence and freedom to make the right decisions. The popular trend is for everybody to give up their stipends, but I planned and I budgeted to get where I'm at, and I'll have to plan and budget to change it. In concept, [eliminating pay and benefits is] good, but the little but we get helps us to be more independent."
Crandall said he supported doing away with the council's health insurance benefits four years ago when it was last brought up, but that it never got done. He said he'd support a similar proposal now for newly elected council members, but would allow existing council members to be grandfathered into their benefits. As for the stipend, Crandall said he'd be in favor of keeping it because, he said, Fountain Valley's stipend is considerably lower then that of other cities.