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  • Dylan Anderson

Steamboat Council hopes raises would make governing body more accessible to local workers

Any raises would need to be approved by voters in November. Council opted to keep discussing the topic, with first reading of an ordinance being the next step.

Steamboat Springs City Council meets in Centennial Hall. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)

Steamboat Springs City Council will continue to explore increasing council salaries with the hope that additional pay would help ensure that the governing body is accessible to working members of the community on a budget.

Council member Heather Sloop, whose term ends this year and cannot run for reelection, said she wanted to have this discussion because she feels it is becoming increasingly demanding for people who live in the community to serve on council.

“I want our community to be represented on city council by the people that live here, not by people who retired here,” Sloop said. “We need to look at this like a supplemental job… You have to be able to afford to do a part-time job on top of your normal life.”

Sloop estimated that council members are putting in anywhere from 25 to 35 hours a week, which makes it harder for someone working in the service industry or a teacher to contemplate serving on council. While Steamboat Council is already above the average of peer communities, Sloop said they are consistently putting in more time than councils in those communities.

“We do more than the average city, especially in the mountain communities,” Sloop said.

There were several ranges thrown out for what an increase in pay would be ranging from $15,000 to $25,000 a year for a regular council member, with the president and president pro-tem getting more. Current council members get paid about $11,900 a year, with the president pro-tem getting $13,900 a year and president getting $15,800 a year.

Sloop suggested that if council did pursue raises, they could craft the ordinance so they would only take effect for newly elected council members and not any members that are currently seated until they are elected again.

The impacts on the city’s budget of increasing council wages are somewhat minimal. Even if they raised it to $25,000 for a council member and $30,000 for the council president, the increase amounts to an additional $83,000 a year, a number some council members compared to what they often pay a consultant.

Council cannot increase wages on their own. An ordinance would need to be passed to place the question on the ballot in November. At that point, voters would decide.

Council Member Ed Briones, who has announced he does not plan to seek reelection in November, said he was supportive of raising it to $25,000 a year for council members. Briones said part of why he is not looking to run for another term on council is because it was hard to meet the demands of the role while juggling his job with Mount Werner Water.

“I think it would attract the armchair quarterback because that’s what I was,” Briones said. “I think it would attract a lot of people like myself.”

Council member Joella West was the lone voice against making any increase, questioning whether it would be approved by voters and whether a pay increase would spur more people to run for the role.

“I don’t agree with what we are trying to do here,” West said.

If council did not pursue raises, Council President Robin Crossan suggested the alternative could be reducing the scope of what council does in an effort to lighten the workload. City Attorney Dan Foote said he feels the city has a larger workload than pretty much any municipality in Colorado, other than Denver and Broomfield.

“You can’t just take things off the plate and expect people like me to be able to run,” said Council Member Dakotah McGinlay. “If you’re able to increase the salary that does make it more possible.”


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