Wednesday, August 15, 2007

City Council moves ahead on raises

Ketchum will look at cost-of-living increases

Express Staff Writer

Regular cost-of-living increases for City Council members could be included in a Ketchum ordinance moving through the pipeline. The ordinance would also increase salaries for the mayor and council members.

At a Monday special meeting, the council approved a second reading of the ordinance, which amends the municipal code to increase the mayor's salary from $1,500 to $3,000 per month and council member salaries from $1,250 to $1,666. Only one person spoke in opposition to the pay increases. City staff members were also instructed to look into the idea of regular cost-of-living allowances for the council.

Staff members provided a report on salary increases at Monday's meeting after a citizen questioned why there was none at the initial Aug. 6 public hearing on the issue. Monday's session was a continuation of that hearing. The council will have a third and final reading on the ordinance on Monday, Aug. 20, at 5:30 p.m.

The report presented a list of mayor and council salaries for Idaho that included both full-time and part-time mayors in cities ranging in size from Sun Valley, with 1,453 people, to Boise, with 193,000 people. The monthly salaries for mayor ranged from a high of $7,602 for Boise to a low of $350 in McCall. The Sun Valley mayor's salary is listed at $1,750, while council members in Sun Valley get $1,000 monthly.

"This town does not necessarily operate like a town of 3,000 (population)," said Mayor Randy Hall.

For cities on the survey with assessed values comparable to Ketchum, salaries were higher. For example, in Idaho Falls, which has a total assessed value of about $3.2 billion, the mayor makes $5,500 monthly. In Ketchum, which has a total assessed value of about $3.5 billion, the mayor earns $1,500 monthly. Council members in Idaho Falls make $833 monthly and in Ketchum they make $1,250.

In a separate survey in the same report, Ketchum had the highest salaries when compared to 13 Colorado resort cities. In population they ranged in size from a high of 15,324 in Durango, where the mayor and council made $750 and $500 respectively, to Silverton, with a population of 500 and salaries of $300 and $250 respectively.

Several citizens spoke in support of a council of regular folks fairly compensated for their time. Councilman Ron Parsons said council members who run businesses should make enough to compensate them for their absences.

"It should be a wash at the very least," Parsons said. "It's not fun to vote on your own raise but I think it's the right thing to do."

Although it is untried in Idaho, City Attorney Ben Worst said in response to questions from Councilman Steve Shafran that he thought fixed, annual cost-of-living increases would be acceptable. City staff were directed to look into the issue.

The council again discussed whether the city needed a full- or part-time mayor and whether this should be put to a public advisory vote. Councilman Steve Shafran said he didn't think the council was "there yet" in terms of a decision and that there should be more public input.

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