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Carbondale trustees discussing 50-percent pay hike

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Would not apply to current board

By John Colson

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

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It appears as though a majority of Carbondale’s elected leaders are leaning toward enacting a pay raise for future trustees, but first they want to hear from their constituents about the idea.

Toward that end, the trustees next week (at a meeting on Sept. 22) will take input from the public on a proposed ordinance that would authorize a 50-percent pay hike for the trustees and the mayor starting with the upcoming municipal election in 2016.

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This would be the first raise authorized for the elected officials in about 15 years, according to town records, and would take a trustee’s paycheck from the current $600 per month to a new rate of $900 per month, and would boost the mayor’s pay from $1,000 per month now to $1,500 per month.

The raise would only apply to trustees who are elected in 2016, 2018 or thereafter.

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The idea was raised in early August by Trustee Allyn Harvey, whose seat on the board is up for election in 2016.

Reaction to the proposal was mixed at a work session of the trustees on Tuesday.

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“Something about it doesn’t sit right with me,” said Trustee Katrina Byars, who with Trustee AJ Hobbs is part of the latest generation to be elected to the board and does not face reelection until 2018.

“Fifty percent feels like a leap,” Byars continued, noting that she would be “open to a slightly lower amount.”

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Trustee Pam Zentmyer, who is in her second term and cannot run for reelection next year due to term limits, initially opposed the idea.

“I’m not too comfortable with it,” she said. “I’m not going to support it.”

But Trustee John Hoffmann, who also is term-limited as of next year, told his fellow trustees, “I support it, just because it (being a trustee) is a lot of work” and trustees should be “compensated justly” for that work.

He (and Harvey, in a letter to the editor in this week’s edition) pointed out that a trustee has to attend up to five nighttime meetings of the board per month, including regular meetings, work sessions and special meetings, read and digest a vast volume of information concerning town affairs, as well as keeping track or attending meetings of a variety of other entities in neighboring towns, state agencies and other groups, which entails a significant amount of travel on the trustees’ own dime.

“That’s almost a full-time job,” Hoffmann said of the trustee position.

Regarding the proposed raise, Hoffmann said, “It’s not that much money.”

Mayor Stacey Bernot, who has resisted the proposal and has two more years on her term, remarked that while she hears a lot of comments from constituents about some issues, she has not heard much about this particular matter.

Harvey, noting that the last time the board voted itself a raise was in 2000, estimated that if the trustees were given annual raises to keep up with inflation, they would be earning more than $800 a month now anyway.

And, he added, it’s not as though a pay raise for trustees comes up very often, or is likely to come up again any time soon.

“It doesn’t get talked about a lot, because it’s not an easy conversation,” he commented.

It has been 15 years since the last such discussion, he said, “and look at the discomfort that we’re having.”

Zentmyer chimed in that, if the trustees approve the raise as proposed at the next meeting, it very well could be without any public input into the question.

“I just want to make sure we do a diligent job of getting feedback from people” to avoid any appearance of impropriety, she declared.

The trustees agreed to put the matter on the Sept. 22 agenda, for discussion and input from the public.

Trustee meetings, held at Town Hall at 511 Colorado Ave., start at 6 p.m.

Published in The Sopris Sun on September 17, 2015.

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