Most cities in California pay their elected officials less than the state's salary guideline, according to an analysis by the LA Times. But Berkeley bucks the trend, paying its city council members more than $13,000 above the salary rate recommended by the state.
Being a charter city, Berkeley is entitled to set its own rate of pay and is not bound by caps set by the state. These state guidelines tie salaries for elected officials to the size of the population they represent, which would mean a cap of $24,382 for Berkeley.
The Times found that charter cities tended to pay higher salaries than their general law counterparts. Berkeley pays an average salary of $37,018 to its elected officials, ranking 26th out of 120 charter cities for highest pay rate.
Los Angeles came in at the top, paying its city council an average salary of $179,815, well above the recommended $40,636. San Francisco, another charter city with the same recommended salary as Los Angeles, ranked third for average salary, at $116,167.
According to the Times, cities that skirted the cap augmented salaries with generous benefits, such as life and health insurance plans, stipends for sitting on commissions, contributions to deferred compensation accounts and generous auto and business expenses.
A searchable database of government compensation in California is available on the California State Controller's website. The most recent data available is for 2009, and shows the top salary in Berkeley as that of City Manager Phil Kamlarz, at $242,577, followed by the police and fire chiefs and the city attorney, all above $200,000 with benefits included.