Silverthorne eyes pay bumps for council, mayor for first time in 18 years
Hoping to avoid a repeat of last April’s municipal election, Silverthorne is looking at its elected officials’ compensation rates.
The last time the town’s elected leaders saw a pay hike, Sony hadn’t yet released the PlayStation 2, Beyoncè Knowles was still with Destiny’s Child and a gallon of gas cost less than $1.60.
It’s been at least 18 years since the town has revisited how much its elected officials are paid, a fact that’s detailed in a memo from town manager Ryan Hyland to town council prefacing a discussion about the topic.
After talking it over last week, Silverthorne Town Council is expected to vote on a proposal next month that would raise town council members’ and the mayor’s salaries. They’re currently some of the lowest, not just in Summit County, but across Colorado’s High Country.
Based on data from the Colorado Municipal League, an analysis of 15 comparable mountain resort municipalities from May 2018 pegged Silverthorne dead last in terms of council pay and tied for last for how much the town pays its mayor.
In fact, the comparable municipalities included in the analysis pay their councils on average more than double what Silverthorne does, and the three lowest paying municipalities in the survey — Dillon, Crested Butte and Mountain Village — all provide their council members with 25 percent higher salaries than Silverthorne does. Right now, Silverthorne council members make $300 a month and the mayor $750. During last week’s discussions, however, council decided that $500 and $1,000 a month, respectively, felt more appropriate.
“Council set the compensation at an amount that would be at least enough to cover child care and lost wages for individuals that might work evening shifts,” Hyland wrote in an email explaining how council came to those figures. “They wanted to make sure that, while they don’t see pay as the main reason to run for office, the pay is not a barrier for those who would incur expenses or lost wages.”
One of the primary reasons Silverthorne is considering the increases relates to low participation rates, which came to a head in the April 2018 municipal election when Silverthorne had to cancel its election because there was no reason to have one.
Running unopposed, Ann Marie Sanquist replaced the outgoing mayor, Bruce Butler, after he announced he wouldn’t seek a second term. With three open council seats last April, incumbents Kevin McDonald and Derrick Fowler both won re-election running unopposed before Kelly Baldwin filled the third open seat on appointment.
It should be noted that if Silverthorne Town Council votes in a pay increase, it would not take effect until at least 2020 because a mechanism programmed into the town’s charter prevents any elected officials from increasing their wages during their current terms of office.
With that, council members elected or re-elected in April 2020, if the raises are approved, would be the first to receive pay increases. The pay hike would only apply to those people voted in during that election. The mayor’s seat won’t be up again in 2020, so it would be two more years before the mayor’s wage could come up to the proposed level.
In the discussion about elected officials’ compensation levels last week, Silverthorne Town Council also refrained from adding elected officials into the town’s health insurance plan. According to the Colorado Municipal League, 87 of Colorado’s 130 municipalities offer their councils health insurance, but Silverthorne was not yet prepared to take that step.
Silverthorne’s proposed wage increase follows Breckenridge Town Council’s decision last January to raise its elected officials’ compensation rates for the first time in a decade. In doing so, Breckenridge bumped council’s pay up to $12,000 annually and the mayor’s to $18,000 a year.
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