The Grand County Council recently voted themselves a pay raise, from about $11,500 a year to $31,000 year, with $36,425 a year designated for the chair.
This is a total additional council cost of about $280,000 for the final two years of their service in this current form of government. It amounts to a two-year total of about $40,000 per council member. They had granted themselves a previous 32-percent pay raise in 2017 from approximately $8,800 a year to $11,500 a year. The combination of these two raises added an additional $356,000 to council member compensation for the last four years of this form of council’s existence. There are, of course, taxpayer funds that are covering this cost.
There has certainly been much discussion on how transparent this process was to citizens and voters. The county and the county’s new budget committee indeed met all the legal requirements for notices and agendas and minutes. But I’m still of the opinion that these types of notification processes are perplexing and not always apparent to the average citizen. Most citizens get their news from the two local weekly papers. They assume the newspapers will report on any big-ticket items they should pay closer attention to. With the exception of one mention, I don’t recall seeing any coverage of these pay raises in the papers until after the fact.
I don’t believe the majority of citizens were aware that pay raises of this magnitude were coming until after they had been approved.
To myself and others, this pay raise just doesn’t feel right. Part of the council’s rationale is the likelihood that Grand County’s new form of government will require more funding in the future, and they need to increase the compensation in order to attract additional interest in serving on the county’s legislative body. I agree with both of these ideas.
Their other rationale cited a need to be more closely aligned with other part-time council bodies in the state, and they felt “required” to take this action based on a survey intended for county employees.
Grand County has known for years where the salary for council members has stood at or near the bottom statewide. This bottom salary was based on the idea established in 1992 that this county specifically wanted “part-time citizens” to serve on the legislative body in a “policy” developmental role only.
The day-to-day operations of the county were to be conducted by county department heads and county employees. The council was to receive help in their policy role by way of recommendations from volunteer citizen boards, commissions and districts. This is all articulated in Grand County’s Title 2 code.
If current council members are nearing full-time work as some of them have suggested, then they are not following the job description as presented in the code.
Tourism and affordable housing issues are certainly more prevalent than they were in the past, but have been an ongoing issue for the past 15 to 20 years. And of course, they must have known what the compensation for the job was when they ran for office? I don’t recall any of them campaigning on increasing the compensation to this level for the job. So, to add this level of compensation for the last two years of their office seems questionable and unwarranted.
Additionally, I am unaware of any mandatory or legal requirement to grant raises from the results of a survey. It is completely discretionary with the council.
If the current council’s concern is to start getting compensation to the higher levels that may be recommended for a new form of government, and to place the compensation to a level where it would be attractive to a wider pool of candidates, perhaps there’s a better way to accomplish that, and one more palatable to citizens and taxpayers.
How about setting aside this type of additional funding for the new county council body that will go into effect on Jan.1, 2021?
This council could provide themselves a modest cost of living pay raise, and place the rest of this increase into a “set-aside fund.” I know there are some restrictions on a county “banking” funding, but I’m sure there are ways to make it work.
How about it, county council? Are you willing to show us you will honor existing code, and this really is about establishing adequate compensation and enticement for our future legislative body?
Lynn Jackson, a Grand County resident and taxpayer, is a former county council member.
“How about setting aside this type of additional funding for the new county council body that will go into effect on Jan.1, 2021?”