Gunnison City passes budget, elected officials will not get raise
By Robert Stevens
GUNNISON—A smooth adoption of the new budget for Gunnison City was delayed by only one contentious issue—whether or not elected officials should get a raise.
During a meeting of the Gunnison City Council that took place on Wednesday, June 20, Gunnison City’s accountant Gary Keddington presented the 2018-2019 budget to be adopted by the council. Before adopting it, however, the council had to reach an agreement about whether or not to increase the pay for elected officials.
The proposed pay increase would have been somewhere in the realm of a 2-3 percent increase, said city treasurer JoAnn Taylor. According to Taylor, at the time of the meeting, the pay for the mayor was $300 per month, and city council received $250 each month.
“I don’t think I really have a say in this,” Gunnison City Mayor Nay told the rest of the council, who had varying opinions on the raise. “But I think most of you know how I feel. This is a real job.”
Councilman Andy Hill said he was in favor of the raise, even though it wouldn’t make much of an income difference for him. He thought that it should be done for future elected officials; and that delaying a pay raise for mayor and council too long might catch up with them.
“It’s like playing kick the can,” Hill said. “You keep kicking it down the road when it gets brought up and you hold off.”
Hill said if you kick it down the road long enough, an eventual pay increase might end up being a controversial amount if it isn’t handled progressively over the years. He said perhaps it should be raised by a set percentage at preset intervals, to keep incentives in line with the amount of work.
“It is still work to be done and time away from your family,” Hill said.
Councilwoman Michelle Smith was vocal about her opposition towards the raise, saying she didn’t feel comfortable voting for a raise in pay for her duties so early in her first term in office.
“I’d like to wait at least another year,” Smith said.
Councilman Robert Anderson offered a compromise. He saw nothing wrong with passing the raise on the condition an official can opt out by electing to donate the pay increase back to the city fund.
“When it comes down to it, it’s not like we are talking about a lot of money anyway,” Anderson said.
Gunnison Gazette Publisher Mark Heinline—himself a former mayor and familiar with the amount of work required as an elected official— was in attendance at the meeting, and spoke up briefly in support of the pay increase.
“For what it’s worth,” Heinline said, “I think you deserve the raise and in my opinion it is warranted.”
Rod Taylor, city zoning administrator, was in attendance at the meeting and he offered his opinion during the sometimes awkward silence during the council’s deliberations.
“You could make more money with minimum wage,” Taylor said. “Its public service and you should know that going into it.”
Council members Blake Donaldson and Blane Jensen were less vocal about their opinions on the raise until it came time to make the decision, at which time they spoke out against it, sealing the deal on no raise for the council and mayor—at least for now.
After the decision was made, Keddington said he had the final variables required to finalize the new budget and he would adjust it and send out the final document to the council for review.
Although the elected officials would not get a pay raise, the new budget includes a 3 percent raise for full-time employees, and merit raises for some other employees. It also includes an increase for part-time pool and library employees to $9 per hour.