Hope Voiced That Pay Hike Will Incentivize Potential Council Candidates
MONTROSE – Arguing that an increase in monthly compensation for Montrose City Council members would incentivize more candidates for council seats earned a tight 3-2 vote Tuesday evening, with council voting to approve councilor pay increases as part of the nearly $40 million-dollar budget for 2014.
The approved pay increases are two-tiered. Beginning in April 2014, councilor pay will jump from $275 to $650 per month, and mayoral pay from $325 to $750. Two years later, salaries will automatically increase once again, with councilors making $900 and the mayor $1,000 per month.
Council had to vote to amend both the pay level and automatic increases to ordinance 2324, in a vote that broke down 3-2, with Kathy Ellis, Bob Nicholson and David Romero voting in favor and Judy Ann Files and Carol McDermott voting against.
"I still hold fast that council is a service and not a salary," McDermott said, adding she would, however, support an increase based on a rise in the consumer price index. A more appropriate level, based on that index, would raised councilor compensation from $275 to $312, she said.
Files agreed the position is a public service, but lamented councilors do "deserve a stipend" to cover costs. Files concluded she found the increased amounts "a little bit staggering."
Once amended, the council voted 3-2 again with the same results to put the increases in effect next April. Included in the ordinance is a provision allowing those serving on the 2016 council a vote to either support or reject the automatic pay increase, something Romero was in favor of.
Former city councilor José Abeyta addressed council, stating that the increase "isn't really an issue," and reminding the council they should be compensated better for the amount of work they do.
"I think there will be a lot more who would run for office if they were getting a lot more,” Abeyta said of the pay hike.
Resident Gordon Prince, also a former city councilor, disagreed.
"This is really funny, raising your own wages,” Prince said. It’s “what we all dream about. This is public service here, not a part time job,” he told council.
2014 Budget Approved
By unanimous vote the council approved on first reading $39,903,390 to fund the city's liabilities and operations for the city's fiscal year 2014. A second vote is expected at the next council meeting.
Councilors Approve Option to Buy City Health Insurance
By a vote of 4-1, councilors voted Tuesday to allow members of the city council the option to join with the city's health insurance coverage.
McDermott cast the only vote in opposition, voicing her concern that councilors are infringing on a thin line between those who are elected by the citizens and those who receive benefits could be viewed as employees of the city.
The ordinance states each councilor's insurance would be paid for out of their monthly compensation.
"We would have to pay those upfront costs," Romero said
City Manager Spending Approval Increased
On Sept. 17, the spending levels that can be approved by the office of City Manager rose by 150 percent, from $20,000 to $50,000.
And according to minutes from the the Sept. 3 meeting, City Manager Bill Bell said the adoption of the ordinance would change the city's municipal code, giving city staff more discretion in the spending limits for budgeted items and increase efficiency.
City manager spending approval would increase from $20,000 to $50,000, and department head limits would increase from $10,000 to $20,000. Any unbudgeted items would be brought before the council. Bell indicated that spending levels have not been adjusted for inflation since before 1990.