City Council pay raise proposal a tough sell
August 26, 2008
ASPEN ” The majority of the Aspen City Council is leaning toward not asking for a pay raise from citizens this fall.
The council agreed early Tuesday morning to continue discussing a pay hike until Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m.
City Councilman Jack Johnson has proposed to place a question on the November ballot that would ask voters to approve increasing the salary of the mayor from $2,325 a month to $4,531.25. Council members’ salaries, which are currently $1,700 a month, would be increased to $4,027.98, if approved by voters.
Some council members don’t support the proposal because of concerns that it would create a conflict of interest for them by affecting them while they are in office.
The pay hike would take effect in June 2009, under the current proposal. The seats held by Johnson, Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss and Mayor Mick Ireland will be open next spring. Councilmen Dwayne Romero and Steve Skadron are in their second year of a four-year term, and would be eligible for the raise.
“Serving the public is a privilege and I don’t believe the salary increase should serve as an incentive,” Skadron said.
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Romero said he thinks asking for a pay raise is premature without having a discussion with the community about whether serving on City Council should become a full-time job.
“It’s completely an inappropriate step without discussions on how we got here,” he said. “It’s the sacrifice you are making to serve the citizenry.”
Ireland said city elected officials are underpaid and take an exorbitant amount of abuse. But he said he does believe it has become a full-time job. However, in the current economic climate, Ireland said he doesn’t feel comfortable asking for a pay raise while cutting back on city services and possibly laying people off.
Johnson said the realities of the job’s workload is not commensurate with the pay. Johnson said he thinks a higher pay rate will attract more qualified candidates and provide an incentive for citizens with modest financial incomes to consider public service.
The compensation packages were derived from the salaries of Pitkin County commissioners, who earn $72,500 a year. That salary was set by the Colorado Legislature in 2006.
Under the city proposal, the mayor’s increased salary would be 75 percent of what the commissioners make. Council members would earn 66.67 percent of what commissioners make.
In order to take the pay raise to voters, Johnson is seeking to change the Home Rule Charter, which says that the council doesn’t need voter approval to boost the salaries of elected officials.