City council considers pay hike to spur interest
Current City and town council Monthly pay in Garfield county
Mayor — $750
Council — $500
Mayor — $1,000
Council — $600
Mayor — $600
Council — $400
Mayor — $470
Council — $370
Mayor — $600
Council — $400
Mayor — $200
Council — $120
Lagging interest among Glenwood Springs residents to run for City Council in recent elections is prompting the current council to consider some incentives, including a possible increase in pay for members.
A preliminary proposal to double the pay, from $500 to $1,000 per month for council members and from $700 to $1,400 for the appointed mayor’s position, was suggested by Councilman Stephen Bershenyi during a Dec. 18 work session.
“The only way we’re going to be able to get young people in particular, many of whom are in family raising mode, to be able to serve on City Council is to pay a little more,” Bershenyi said. “That way they might financially see their way clear to do it.”
Other suggestions included offering a family pass to the Glenwood Springs Community Center as part of the compensation for serving on council, and allowing elected council members to buy into the city’s group health insurance plan.
“Having the public see council members at the Community Center also says we’re invested in that facility and that we see its value,” Mayor Leo McKinney said.
“I think it’s a big enough issue for people that these kinds of things could attract people to want to get involved who otherwise might not do it because of their personal situation,” McKinney said.
Participation in recent municipal elections has waned compared with previous elections, when multiple candidates often competed for City Council seats.
In the April 2013 election, only one of the three seats up for election had a contested race, and the election prior to that saw three of the four open seats go uncontested. The 2009 council election was canceled altogether because only one candidate filed for each of the three open seats that year.
Four council seats again open up for the April 7, 2015, municipal election. At-large Councilman Dave Sturges is term limited and cannot run again, while first-term incumbents Todd Leahy, Ted Edmonds and Mike Gamba have not indicated at this early stage whether they intend to seek retention of their respective ward seats.
The city last increased the rate of pay for council members in 2002. Currently, Glenwood Springs has the second-highest rate of pay for its elected representatives among Garfield County’s six municipalities. Only Carbondale pays more, at $600 per month for council members and $1,000 for the separately elected mayor’s seat.
Some municipalities, when they adjust council pay, make it effective only for newly elected or re-elected officials, rather than giving pay raises to sitting council members who are not up for re-election.
Councilman Leahy said he could go along with some type of increased compensation for council members, be it increased pay or some other incentive. But he warned against making it too attractive.
“None of us are doing it for the money,” Leahy said.
“I can see maybe a couple hundred [dollars] each for council and the mayor,” he said. “But I would hate to have it be seen as a good part-time job. That’s when you could get people who do take it for the money, and this job isn’t about money.”
That’s not to say there aren’t some significant hours involved with serving on City Council, reviewing and deciding on land-use proposals and the annual budget, and weighing major policy decisions, he and other members agreed.
“We put in a lot of work and effort for that $500 every month,” Leahy said.
City Council is expected to formally take up the discussion about drafting an ordinance to increase compensation for council members at the regular Jan. 15 meeting. An ordinance could be on the table for consideration by February, which means it could take effect after the April election.
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The city of Glenwood Springs has proposed investing $5.76 million for street improvements in the 2020 budget.