The Fountain Valley City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday night to eliminate health insurance and life insurance for its members at the end of 2012, and to eliminate retirement benefits for any newly elected members of the council.
"To me, getting benefits other than the stipend is excessive," said council member Steve Nagel, who originally proposed the measure and who, along with Larry Crandall and Mayor John Collins, voted to eliminate the council's benefits. "Part-time employees don't get benefits, and that's why we have part-time employees--to save money. It's incumbent upon us to take the lead."
Council members will still be paid their $475 monthly stipend. Nagel had originally proposed eliminating that as well, but changed his mind after seeing that the stipend was in line with other cities in the county, and factoring in that council members are not reimbursed for mileage, parking or other incidental expenses. Because enrollment in the public employee retirement system is essentially permanent, retirement benefits were eliminated only for new members going forward.
Council member Mark McCurdy, who receives medical benefits from the city and who, along with Michael Vo, voted against doing away with benefits, argued that serving on the council takes time away from his business, and that eliminating benefits for council members might discourage residents from wanting to serve on the council. Crandall, who also receives medical benefits from the city, wasn't convinced.
"To think that somebody would run for office just to get the benefits is far-reaching," he said. "To say that you're going to eliminate candidates is disingenuous at best. If they really have a fire in their belly, they're going to run no matter what."
The council also addressed potential changes to the city's single-family residential zoning standards in an effort to prevent what Planning Director Andy Perea dubbed the "mansionization" of the city's homes. The last changes to the R-1 zone in 2006 reduced the maximum allowable height of a single-family home from 28 to 25 feet, but this latest set of proposed changes would focus on closing a loophole in the city's requirement that the second floor of a two-story home only be 70 percent the size of the first floor.
The regulation is in place to prevent homes from looking "boxy," Perea said, but builders in the past have skirted it by building portions of the ceilings on the first floor to the same height as those on the second. The new code would limit first-floor ceiling height to 10 feet.
Nagel proposed that the overall height limited be raised to 27 feet, and that the other new regulations be implemented, and the council decided to send the matter back to the Planning Commission for further review.