Our view: Vote ‘yes’ on Referendum 2B | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Vote ‘yes’ on Referendum 2B

This fall, Steamboat Springs voters are being asked to decide whether or not city council members continue to receive medical and dental health insurance benefits in return for their public service. This issue is Referendum 2B on the ballot, and we think the decision whether or not to approve the measure is a no-brainer.

Since 1990, Steamboat city council members have had the option to participate in the city's medical and dental health insurance plan under the same terms and conditions as full-time city employees. By voting "yes" on this measure, citizens would be amending the city's municipal code to make access to the city's insurance plan an official part of a council member's compensation.

While we value the virtue of public service without monetary incentive, we view this health insurance option as a legitimate form of compensation that could open up the playing field and entice more people to run for local office, especially in a community with an escalating cost of living and high childcare costs. In particular, we think it's an incentive that may be attractive to young professionals in the community, providing them the opportunity to serve alongside more mature counterparts, who no longer face the same time and financial constraints.

The cost to taxpayers for allowing city council members to join the city's insurance plan is not a huge amount. The average cost to the city per employee for health benefits is $12,763, and in 2017, the city budgeted up to $95,000 for council insurance benefits. The average cost to each employee is $6,786

Providing health insurance options to council members is not a radical idea – other nearby mountain towns, including Durango, Vail and Breckenridge, also offer insurance to their elected leaders just like Steamboat. It also should be noted that not all council members choose to join the city's insurance plan, and if they do, they must make the same contributions as a full-time city employee. There are no special deals, and it is not offered for free to the council member.

We also will remind voters that by approving this ballot measure they are not adopting something new, but rather, making a practice, which has been part of council service for almost three decades, official and bringing the insurance offering into compliance with the city's charter, which requires city voters to approve council compensation. To vote against the measure would mean stripping away a benefit that the city has traditionally offered.

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Serving on city council requires dedication and a big time commitment. According to City Council President Pro-Tem Jason Lacy, city council members can put in as many as 80 hours a month serving the community, and with that in mind, we think providing them with an insurance benefit in addition to the $842 per month they're paid is very reasonable and well deserved.

We encourage voters to vote "yes" on 2B to continue providing city council members with another incentive to serve in one of our community's most important roles.

At issue: Steamboat voters are being asked to approve a measure that would make access to the city’s health insurance plan part of city council compensation.

Our view: This is a benefit the city has been providing to council members since 1990, and we think it deserves voter approval.

Editorial Board
• Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher

• Lisa Schlichtman, editor

• Tom Ross, reporter

• Hannah Hoffman, community representative

• Bob Schneider, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.