Aspen councilors officially pass pay raises
Average salary bump of 50% is first increase in compensation for Aspen City Council in 20 years
Aspen City Council members who are elected in March and sworn in this spring will make $1,000 more a month, thanks to Ordinance 21 passed Tuesday night by the majority of current office holders.
It is the first time council has given raises to their successors since 2001.
The new monthly compensation for the office of mayor will be increased from $2,325 to $3,325, and for City Council members, it will go from $1,700 to $2,700.
So if Mayor Torre and Councilman Ward Hauenstein are reelected this spring, they will enjoy the compensation increase.
Increases in compensation will become effective at the first regular City Council meeting in April for the mayor and June for those council members elected in the general election in March.
The city’s Home Rule Charter does not allow a current member of City Council to be entitled to receive a pay raise until their present term of office has expired, and they have been elected or appointed to a new term.
So for council positions set for election in March 2023, increases in compensation will become effective at the first regular City Council meeting in April 2023, according to City Attorney Jim True.
The new compensation salaries also include an automatic increase based on the consumer price index.
The raises reflect not only the rise in the cost of living since 2001, but the increase in the commitment of time necessary to fulfill the duties of such elective offices.
The language in the ordinance recognizes that the job requires more than a minimum of 20 hour a week, which is the main impetus for council members to go where no other Aspen municipal elected board has gone before in the past two decades.
Over the years, different councils have batted around the idea of pay increases for their successors, but never could come to a consensus.
In April of 2019, the council at the time attempted to increase the pay by $200 a month but no decision was made.
“I think progress is progress but it’s been 20 years and in any year this is at best an awkward decision for any council member to vote on even though it doesn’t affect them,” said Councilmember Skippy Mesirow, adding that he wanted higher than the nearly 60% increase passed for council (43% for mayor). “I just want to provide the best opportunity going forward for people in the community to run and serve in office from a diverse background.”
True said the compensation of elected officials is debated throughout the country on a regular basis, and there are many varied opinions regarding amount and purpose.
Councilwoman Ann Mullins was the lone dissenting vote on the ordinance. She has repeatedly said now is not the time to give raises as people throughout the community suffer economically because of the pandemic.
A civil deputy kept her job and was mandated to undergo counseling after Aspen police arrested her in July on suspicion of driving under the influence and reckless driving.
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