Our view: Question of council compensation | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Question of council compensation

At issue:

The Steamboat Springs City Council is considering putting its health insurance benefit to a vote.

Our view:

It’s time to put the insurance question on the ballot and time to take another look at council pay.

Steamboat Springs voters could be deciding whether or not their city council members will continue to receive health insurance through the city as part of the council’s compensation plan.

Our view:

It’s time to put the insurance question on the ballot and time to take another look at council pay.

The discussion about health insurance was raised by council members during a council retreat last week, and we encourage them to proceed with their initial plans and place the issue before voters next year.

City Attorney Dan Foote said the option for the council to get health insurance through the city extends back to 1992, but he said the benefit was never approved by voters. Under the city’s charter, any change to the council’s salary or benefits must be voted upon by city residents, and this is the main reason we support letting voters have a say on the issue.

Currently, five out of the seven council members get health insurance through the city at an annual cost of around $95,000. In addition, council members are paid a salary. Monthly salary levels are $788.48 for council members, $920.20 for the president pro-tem and $1,050.09 for the council president.

Council salaries have not been raised since 2014, and prior to that, the council opted against any pay raises during the Great Recession when employee pay cuts and city furloughs were implemented.

A former council, with good intentions, suspended annual compensation increases, which were approved by voters in 2001. Just last month, the current council was able to restore the majority of city employees to 40-hour work weeks in the 2017 budget, which means it’s now a good time for the council to take another look at its own pay.

Ultimately, running for elected office shouldn’t be about compensation but about service. But we also acknowledge that being a city council member is a huge commitment that requires time to do the job right.

As City Manager Gary Suiter pointed out during the retreat, council members are most likely making below minimum wage based on the number of hours they commit to council work.

With that said, we would support the council voting for its pay to be increased according to the plan approved by the local electorate 15 years ago, which ties annual salary increases to the percentage increase of the consumer price index in Denver and Boulder.

We also urge the council to take the necessary steps to abide by the city charter and put the health insurance question on the ballot for voters to decide next spring or summer.

It’s also worth noting that the issue of whether or not council members should receive health insurance through the city was raised by the council itself. This is another encouraging sign that the current council wants to do things right and is working to rebuild public trust.

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