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

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

— 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