Council hears update on council assistant status

"The cost to add one council assistant position and reclassify an executive assistant to council assistant is $114,945, according to Vicki Rios, budget and finance department director."

After a heated discussion about adding council assistant positions to the 2019-20 fiscal year budget, council heard examples of how the money could be used if a councilmember decided to forego the help.

The cost to add one council assistant position and reclassify an executive assistant to council assistant is $114,945, according to Vicki Rios, budget and finance department director. The position is included in the tentative 2019-20 budget, but council still needs to approve it.

Cholla District Councilwoman Lauren Tolmachoff and Cactus District councilman Ian Hugh, who share an assistant, have argued it was not about the extra money. The remaining funds should be used by the councilmembers to improve their districts.

Public Affairs Director Brent Stoddard explained how the new budgets would work. Each councilmember would be given a budget, an example of $190,000. Stoddard said the total is based on current councilmembers’ salary, expenses, benefits, office, supplies and other numbers divided by six councilmembers.

“Each councilmember would have to take out their salary, any assistants’ salary. What is left, each councilmember could use in their district discretionary funds as long as it is allowed under the city charter,” Stoddard said.

Vice Mayor Joyce Clark questioned the plan.

“Take my budget and explain how it would work and what I would have left for my district,” Clark asked.

“By my math, I would have more discretionary funds under this proposal, correct?”

Stoddard said she would have more, depending on what she spent for an assistant. Barrel District Councilman Bart Turner questioned the spending.

“I am fine with this as long as there is understanding on coming back to address council policy and how funds should or should not be restricted,” Turner said.

Hugh was quick add councilmembers could use the funds as they see fit.

“This is perfectly clear that it is my council budget and I could spend it how I wanted and that is the only way I would be in favor of this proposal,” Hugh said.

Glendale City Manager Kevin Phelps added funding must be used for legal expectations. Clark and Turner have requested their own personal council assistant, but others wanted to ensure they were allowed to use the budget money they do not use within their districts.

Clark, however, proposed that the councilmembers have assistants, and suggested the addition of two positions to the budget in early May. Turner agreed.

“I would say council office does not operate efficiently under the current 3-to-1 (assistants to councilmembers) model, and I believe this will go a long way to solving issues in the council office,” said Clark, who called the proposal “long overdue.”

Council concurred and the staff will return with a final proposal for the possible changes to council budgets soon.