Citing will of the voters in 2001, Steamboat Springs City Council gives itself a raise

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— A slim majority of the Steamboat Springs City Council voted Tuesday night to raise their own pay for the first time in four years.

Members supportive of the pay raise said they wanted to respect a vote of the people made here in 2001.

Steamboat residents 12 years ago voted to give their city council annual pay raises, and in recent years, the raises were supposed to be based on the consumer price index in Denver and Boulder.

But when the city cut the pay of its employees four years ago during the Great Recession, the council at the time didn't feel comfortable receiving those raises and voted them down every year until Tuesday night.

Bart Kounovsky raised the issue of council pay during the second reading of the city's 2014 budget, saying he wasn't comfortable going against the will of the voters by forgoing the pay raises every year.

He added the situation gave him “heartburn.”

“I'm not looking for a pay raise,” Kounovsky said. “I just have a fundamental issue that the seven of us here have voted for the last four years to basically go against what was approved by our voters.”

The council pay raises were restored by Kounovsky and members Kenny Reisman, Scott Myller and Tony Connell.

Sonja Macys, Scott Ford and Walter Magill voted against the measure.

The gravity of the decision was on display when Connell didn't speak up during the first round of voting.

He paused a few moments before he gave the deciding “yes.”

But three council members weren't comfortable with the decision.

Macys said she understood not wanting to go against the will of what voters approved in 2001, but she noted that she hasn't heard from any community members who were upset by council's decision to forgo the pay raises.

She also said she thought the current council “doesn't deserve a raise.”

Because of Tuesday night's vote, the pay of the five regular council members will be raised from $620.80 per month to $788.48 per month.

The president pro-tem's pay will be raised next year from $724 per month to $920.20 per month, and the pay of the council president will increase from $826.40 per month to $1,050.09 per month.

Finance Director Kim Weber told the council that the raises and benefits will be worth about $17,000 this year.

Council members receive health insurance from the city.

City staff praised the council for reinstating the pay to the level approved by voters.

City Manager Deb Hinsvark said the city was as uncomfortable as the majority of the council about going against the will of the voters.

The council then went on to approve the 2014 budget, 6-1, with Macys the lone “no” vote.

The budget returns 40 of the city's 250 employees back to a 40-hour workweek.

It also includes $600,000 worth of salary and benefit increases for city employees who were determined to be making significantly lower wages than government employees in cities comparable to Steamboat.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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Comments

Scott Wedel 9 months, 3 weeks ago

It was the will of the voters in 2001 to give the 2013 city council a pay raise?

And they voted to give themselves a raise as compared to voting to provide a raise for the next city council so that they would have to be reelected in order to personally benefit from their vote?

Considering the value of city provided health insurance, it is hard to claim that someone couldn't afford to become a city council member.

Oh well, a pretty clear indication that 4 people have no expectation of running for office again. It is a pretty strong political poison to vote to give yourself a raise.

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rhys jones 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The deciding vote hasn't been there a month, and already he's giving himself a raise. I smell a lame duck already. The constant turnover in this position -- deservedly so, as they reveal their incompetence -- only insures more inexperience will follow. Better that, than known thieves.

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Eric Meyer 9 months, 3 weeks ago

One easy way to "Not want a pay raise" and still "respect the will of the voters" might be to donate that unwanted $15,099.48 to some of the great local non-profits. Problem solved?

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jerry carlton 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I worked in the private sector 51 years and never had a guaranteed pay raise from any one. I never had the ability to approve my own pay raise. I did not vote for this in 2001. Oh, I lived in the county in 2001 so I could not vote no. I wish that I could approve my own Social Security raise for 2014. This definitely proves that 51% of voters in Steamboat had poor judgement. Tell me how much is health insurance worth? $1000 per month 2,000 per month? Is it fully paid? They should definitely be working 40 hours per week for $3000 per month in Steamboat.

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Scott Wedel 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Often politicians when "concerned" that their office are not paid well enough to attract the best candidates will decide to allocate the money to pay the future officeholders. That way they are not directly giving themselves pay raises, but can address any possible issue of possible good candidates being unable to run because they cannot afford to serve.

That issue of possible insufficient pay certainly does not affect any of the current city council members. None of them ran in November needing and expecting a pay raise in order to be able to serve out their terms of office.

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