Lowest possible salary increase approved for Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao. Here's how much it is

Stephanie Sierra Image
Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Oakland Mayor Thao says she would reject $75K raise
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao has requested the City Council set her salary raise at the lowest possible amount.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- As the city of Oakland grapples with the largest budget deficit in its history, several high-level administrative vacancies, and staffing shortages across a slew of key departments -- the mayor is getting a pay raise.

As of late Tuesday night, the City Council approved a roughly $13,000 raise for Mayor Sheng Thao annually to $216,202.42 per year. The mayor says she would support the increase.

Council Members Treva Reid and Noel Gallo voted against it - citing the city's multi-million dollar budget deficit.

"I'm really in a state of shock," said Oakland Bishop Bob Jackson. "We are having the same problems... if not worse since you became the mayor. What have you done to justify having a raise?"

The Bishop asks a fair question.

RELATED: Oakland to consider $75K pay raise for mayor; here's how salary sizes up to other cities

"Does it just go along with the turf? Because she's mayor?"

The answer is yes. The Oakland City Charter determines the formula for setting the mayor's salary and mandates city council review it every other year.

According to the charter, the mayor's salary must be set between 70 to 90 percent of the average salary of city executives in six cities with the closest population size - three with higher populations, which are Fresno, Sacramento, and Long Beach. Plus, three with lower populations, which are Bakersfield, Anaheim, and Stockton.

For Thao to meet the minimum salary requirement, her raise would need to be at least $13,202. But a report compiled by the city's human resources department is recommending the highest amount $74,975.

Mayor Thao is urging against that.

"This year, given the significant financial challenges that the City is facing, I urge the City Council to set the Mayor's salary at the lowest amount legally required by the City Charter," Mayor Thao said in a statement from her office. "As a leader I know this is in the best interest of the City's fiscal health, and it is also the right thing to do."

The announcement was well-received.

"I think the mayor should be applauded for that move," said Terry Wiley, with the Oakland NAACP. "I think it shows an understanding of the times that we're in."

But the controversy doesn't end there.

Critics still argue the charter erroneously used city manager positions as a metric for setting the mayor's salary.

"In most cases today, city administrators typically have higher salaries than the mayors," Wiley said.

According to a report compiled by the city, the average salary for city managers in those six cities is $308,860.

Wiley says the average salary for mayors in those six cities is $134,000.

If the proposal is approved, Mayor Thao's new salary would be at minimum $216,202.42

"I think they need to consider amending the charter so it is more in line with where government is today," Wiley said.

According to the report, Thao makes nearly $22,000 less than a special assistant in her office. Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas supports the raise - adding it's only fair.

"It's been 10 years since the last one," Bas said. "And we all know over the last few years how much inflation has grown."

As the city struggles with hundreds of vacancies across key departments, including transportation, housing and public works - many question, is this the right move?

"My heart is breaking because of the condition of our city," said Bishop Jackson. "911 you call, they put you on hold for an hour. And don't expect to get a police officer. We really need help in this city. Not a raise."

The City Council also approved to move forward with a proposed ballot measure that would direct the Public Ethics Commission or another entity to be responsible for setting the mayor's salary.

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