Ref. 2A would raise City Council's pay

Members: More work, more compensation

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Election 2006

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— Citing an increase in meetings, events and travel, the Steamboat Springs City Council is asking voters for its second pay increase in five years.

Referendum 2A on the Nov. 7 ballot would increase salaries for council members by varying rates. City Council President Ken Brenner would receive the largest increase, from $883.20 a month to $1,200 a month.

In 2001, Steamboat Springs voters gave City Council members a pay increase of $200 a month. This time around, the majority of council members say another increase is necessary to compensate for a workload that is growing as fast as the city.

"We've gone to 70 percent more meetings than we've had in previous years," said Loui Antonucci, who has served on the council for nine years. "And as the city has grown, there is definitely a request from the community that we attend more meetings outside of the council. Some weeks it just takes a lot of hours to do this (job). And it all takes money."

Antonucci said travel expenses come out of his pocket.

"I've never turned in a receipt for that kind of thing," he said.

Brenner shares Antonucci's sentiment.

"The pace and scope of City Council's commitment to our community continue to grow," Brenner said in an online chat hosted by the Steamboat Pilot & Today last month. "I easily spend 40 hours a week, often more. We spend hours learning about issues, interacting with staff, meeting with the public and reading."

In addition to monthly stipends, council members are eligible to receive city health insurance.

Paul Strong is the only council member who voted against placing a salary increase on November's ballot. Strong said the council's workload should be changed, not the wage.

"As opposed to getting a pay raise, we should be looking at how to reduce our time commitments," Strong said. "The council has a great tendency to micromanage."

Strong, a Republican, is running for Routt County commissioner against Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, vice chairwoman of the Routt County Planning Commission.

Strong is one of five council members, including Brenner and President Pro-tem Susan Dellinger, whose seat will be up for election in November 2007.

Strong and Brenner both cited the importance of enabling working people to serve on the council, but the two men disagreed on how to make that happen.

"The more you start meeting, the more difficult you make it for community members to run (for a council seat)," Strong said. "This council has a problem prioritizing. We want to do everything right now, and we're running our staff ragged."

Brenner said the increased work is an inevitable result of managing an expanding city confronting numerous contentious issues.

"The thing that's changed is the amount of work that's being done," he said Friday. "The scope of work and the amount of work for the City Council continues to increase. That time obligation, unless there is some form of reimbursement, makes it difficult for people who work normal jobs to make some sort of sacrifice to be on City Council. We need to offer enough reimbursement so someone with a regular job can still afford to do this service for the community."

This month, the council decided to begin meeting four Tuesday nights a month instead of three. City Clerk Julie Jordan said the council also meets as the city's Liquor License Authority, usually once a month. In addition, council members frequently attend meetings of groups including the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's executive board, the Urban Renewal Authority Advisory Committee and the Airport Steering Committee.

"I don't think it's going to make or break any one of us," Antonucci said about Referendum 2A. "And I don't think it's ever going to compensate for the amount of time."

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