Aspen City Council moves forward with salary increases for electeds
Aspen City Council members on Tuesday passed on first reading an ordinance that would give their successors an almost 60% raise that will take effect in June when the next generation of elected officials are sworn in.
The salary increases are set to pass on second reading at council’s next regular meeting on Dec. 8.
The dissenting vote is expected to come from Councilwoman Ann Mullins, who has opposed the $1,000 per month increase since the idea was introduced earlier this year.
Council members make $20,400 a year and the mayor earns $27,900, plus health benefits.
Most council members agree that the job is not part time and to attract good, qualified working-class candidates who have other jobs, the salary must be commensurate with the work put in.
Mullins, who is serving her eighth and final year of her two-term run on council, said on Tuesday giving future council members raises during a pandemic when people are suffering economically, and layoffs and budget cuts are happening in private business, as well as local government, is inappropriate.
She asked her colleagues to table the matter until after the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are over and the economy becomes stable again.
“We didn’t go into this for the money, we went into this because we can make a change and we feel we can do good for the community,” Mullin said. “I think it’s a rough time to be considering this.”
Councilwoman Rachel Richards said there is never a good time to raise elected officials’ salaries and that’s why council hasn’t done it in the past 20 years, but with a $141 million budget, the city can afford a $36,000 increase.
“We aren’t stopping an awful lot of projects because of how bad it is with COVID, because of budget uncertainty, because of a difficult time,” she said. “If we are going to stop (raises) I would want to stop an awful lot of other things that are coming out of that general fund for the next year.”
If approved by ordinance next month, the salary raises will benefit the three people who take office in June, after they are elected in March 2020 when the majority of the five-seat council is up.
With many lingering questions still surrounding the fate of Aspen’s historic Old Powerhouse, City Council decided during Monday’s work session to hold off on providing staff direction on moving the preservation project forward until more information can be presented.