Posted: Dec 28, 2012 7:05 PM by Andy Koen
COLORADO SPRINGS - Members of the Colorado City Council may ask voters next April for a substantial raise. News 5 obtained a copy of a draft ballot issued that would amend the City Charter to increase the pay of council members by the equivalent of 44 percent of the mayor's $96,000 salary (or $42,240 annually).
The pay would also include full city benefits and a pension. The projected $450,000 to $500,000 cost would be split between the city budget and the Colorado Springs Utilities budget (City Council also serves at the utility board.)
If approved, the pay increase would take affect for those council members elected in April of 2015. Proponents, including council members Lisa Czelatdko (District 3) and Brandy Williams (At-Large) say higher salaries are needed to attract more diverse candidates to run for city office.
"We are not a retirement community," Czelatdko said. "We are an innovative and you know wonderful community that needs to attract people to come here and we are dependent on tourism and I think that we need a body that reflects the demographics that we have out here."
"I would love to not be the only one (council member) under 40," added Williams. "We're the 41st largest city in the nation and we need to treat it as a full time job."
Both women say they work at least 40 hours a week as council members, often more. Using their current annual stipend of $6,250 for comparison, their approximate hourly wage amounts to roughly $3.12.
However, Mayor Steve Bach called the proposal a "piecemeal plan" that's being sprung on voters at the last minute without a great deal of public input or involvement. He believes there are better ways to reform the scope of city government without what he calls an "astronomical" (675 percent) pay increase.
"What do they propose I cut in order to balance the budget," Bach asked.
Council member Tim Leigh (At-Large) says money isn't the problem, but rather time. Leigh has publicly argued for pay increases in the past, but says he believes the best way to attract successful leaders and innovators to run is by making the hours more manageable.
He points to the council's role as planning commission and utilities board as examples of areas where low-level decisions might be better left to city department managers.
"We spent three hours the other day talking about whether someone could have a basketball hoop in their cul-de-sac," Leigh said.
Council is expected take up the measure in their regularly scheduled meeting January 7.
The language of the proposed ballot issue was emailed to certain council members by John Weiss, the publisher of the Colorado Springs Independent. Weiss was on vacation Friday and unavailable for comment.