COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - In just a week, Colorado Springs voters will decide whether to boost pay for City Council members by more than $40,000.
A pay boost has been discussed for years, with council members earning just a $6,250 annual stipend for their work in a time-consuming position that comes along with marathon meetings sometimes lasting from the afternoon until late at night.
"If I wanted to serve right now, I certainly couldn't. I do have a mortgage to pay," said Tony Gioia, who helped put the measure on the ballot for the April 2 municipal election.
He said lack of pay limits the kind of people who can serve, including many young professionals. He said benefits and a living wage of $48,000, half the mayor's salary, would expand the viewpoint on council.
"It will diversify the people who can serve on council by allowing those who are not independently wealthy, who are not retired on a pension to be able to serve and still be able to pay their bills," Gioia said.
Some opponents agree that council pay should be raised, but former councilman Sean Paige says this is too much, too fast.
"I think City Council should remain a public service and not a full-time profession. We have enough professional politicians in this country already," Paige said. "They number of people you see running right now at the lower pay indicates that there's still a great deal of interest."
Mayor Steve Bach says while the current council stipend "doesn't cut it," he urges voters to say no to the measure.
"I've asked several times, 'How are we going to pay for this?,'" Bach said. "We don't exactly have extra cash sitting around."
If the pay boost measure passes, it would cost about $500,000. Half of that would come from the city's general fund and half from Colorado Springs Utilities, which council currently oversees.
"But in the event in the future, if city council no longer serves as the utility board, our general fund over here will absorb all of that extra cost," Bach said.
Historically, voters have rejected attempts to boost council pay in Colorado Springs.