Public service or offset for working locals?
[ By Mark Reaman ]
Despite one councilmember’s argument that those on town council should be doing the job out of a sense of “public service,” the council voted to approve an increase in salary for incoming town council members and the mayor that will be elected this November. Incoming councilmembers will go from receiving $650 per month ($7,800 annually) to $850 a month while the mayor will get a $300/month raise for a total of $1,350 monthly. The move will cost the town another $18,000 annually.
Based on the research provided by town staff that shows population, budget numbers and council salaries of other Colorado towns, councilmember Mallika Magner argued against the idea. “It would be irresponsible for council to vote on a raise like this based on the number comparisons of other towns,” she said. “We are here for public service. The idea that someone might want to get on council to earn $16,000 a year is maybe not the type of people we want. I am opposed to this.”
“We are not incentivizing this enough to make this job someone’s primary source of income,” said councilmember Jasmine Whelan. “But some that want to do this might have to give up one of their three jobs to do it right. So, this helps with that. I think this makes sense personally.”
Mayor Jim Schmidt said when he was working as a bus driver, he often had to give up a shift, and thus the money that came with it, to attend public meetings. “This would help,” he said.
“If we don’t have a wage that helps, the job then filters out to just people who can afford to serve,” said councilmember Jason MacMillan.
“How do we justify having similar compensation to places like Frisco that has a larger budget and bigger population?” asked Magner.
Frisco’s population is about twice that of the 1,600 people in Crested Butte and its annual budget is $21 million compared to Crested Butte’s $12 million. Their council representatives receive $50 less than Crested Butte councilmembers or $600/month.
“If we were to base it just on those figures across some peer communities, we would get less than $100 per month,” said MacMillan.
Shaun Horne is running for council and he agreed with MacMillan. “It is a small amount of money for the amount of exposure that comes with the job in a small town. I think it would exclude some members of the community from participating and we want more people to be competing for the seats,” he said. “There has been a lot of councilmember turnover lately and this might play a small role in alleviating that.”
Another council candidate, Anna Fenerty also agreed. “I work four jobs right now and I calculated that with the proposed $200 raise I would only have to work three jobs. This definitely makes it easier for someone like me to run for council.”
The raise was approved 6-1 with Magner voting against it. It will only apply to those who are newly elected, so current councilmembers Magner and Mona Merrill, neither of whom are up for election this fall, will stay at the current salary.