Second Vote Expected at Sept. 17 Meeting
MONTROSE – Spurred by healthy public support, the Montrose City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to increase compensation for residents serving on the city council, increasing each councilor’s monthly pay from $275 to $500. A second vote on the matter is scheduled for Sept. 17.
Residents Doug Glaspell, Jim Anderson and former city councilor Jose Abeyta all said councilors should be compensated at a higher rate, in order to attract more competition for open council seats and younger candidates.
Glaspell suggested that members of city council, who are tasked with managing the city’s multimillion-dollar operating budget, should be paid more for their service.
"I would like to point out that the positions that you people hold are similar to the CEO of a large corporation," Glaspell said. "Don't sell yourself short on your efforts to make Montrose a successful city, now and in the future. Compared to Congress, you and your staff are doing one heck of a job.”
Anderson said councilors’ compensation should be $1,000 per month, which would entice younger candidates to compete for open seats.
"I think it's a win-win deal," he said, adding that the opportunity to serve, combined with better pay, would give interested candidates reason to apply.
Abeyta, who does not live within the city, said the current demographics would be better served with increased pay. Most, he said, still live "paycheck to paycheck" and have more expenses than those who are retired and can better afford to serve.
A pay raise is "going to solicit better-qualified people," Abeyta said.
Councilor Carol McDermott dissented.
"I'm against this particular ordinance , because I consider my service to be that, a service," McDermott said. "I don't think that now is the time, that our budget is healthy enough, to support this particular item. There are other needs that are crying out.”
City Attorney Stephen Alcorn read a letter from former city councilor Gail Marvel, who said increasing compensation simply to draw in younger candidates was "faulty logic" and urged the council to vote ‘no.’
Newly-appointed City Councilor David Romero disagreed with Marvel’s sentiment. "I know it's a public service, and I know you should do this [out of] the goodness of your heart, but when it cuts into your pocketbook at the end of the month, I don't see how younger people will step up at a younger age,” Romero said. “I know the council has been divided on this issue. No disrespect to my former council members, but I still have a mortgage. I still live paycheck to paycheck. I was very happy to see that paycheck at the end of last month.
“I also felt [that], because I'm being paid, there was a higher level of service expected from me,” he added.
Councilor Bob Nicholson pointed out that the medical insurance offered to council costs more money than a councilor’s compensation.
"If you feel uncomfortable taking the salary, I don't think you have to. You can give it back, you can do whatever you want to. But that needs to be a personal issue,” Nicholson said.
Kathy Ellis said that a city council member’s combined salary – including her own – is $13,500, and dismissed rumors that city councilors earn as much money as Montrose County Commissioners.