Now, it’s time that City Council members were paid $96,000, too, said City Councilman Tim Leigh, who was elected in April.
“Frankly, I think that the salary should be more than that,” he said.
“Look at it this way,” he said. “You have nine well-intended, part-time people trying to run a multiple billion dollar enterprise (that includes oversight of Colorado Springs Utilities and Memorial Health System). That is silly on its face and should be insulting to the citizens of Colorado Springs.”
Council members are currently paid $6,250 a year.
Under Leigh’s proposal, the total cost to taxpayers would be $864,000.
Leigh, who was elected to a two-year term, said he plans to bring a proposal to increase council members’ pay in front of council before his term is up.
“This is not like some hidden, quiet, behind-the-scenes conversation,” he said. “It is something that people talk about all the time, yet we have not had the gravitas to bring it up and get right out in front of everybody currently.”
Councilman Merv Bennett said he would not advocate a pay increase.
“I’m doing this because I want to serve the community, and I knew what I was getting into from the beginning,” Bennett said. “Now, having said that, if personally I was not involved, I would be supportive of that.”
Bennett, who puts in up to 45 hours a week as a councilman, said a salary increase for council members would be a “positive thing” for the future. But he said he would prefer that the public — not council — push the idea.
“I think the pay for council is something that it’s important for our future. It’s not what I’m focused on right now,” he said. “I think we’ve got other issues that we need to address, like the economy and jobs and Memorial (Health System), the things like that.”
Councilwoman Brandy Williams said council members “definitely” need to be paid more than $6,250 a year.
“I don’t know that $96,000 is where I would start at,” she said. “But I think for a city of 416,000, that we really need to look at what we are paying our representatives.”
In Denver, the council president is paid $87,539 annually and council members are paid $78,173.
Pueblo pays its council president $10,800 a year and its council members $8,400 a year.
Leigh said he wants to “engage the citizens in this conversation” and encouraged them to contact their council members to express their opinions about a proposed salary increase.
“Here’s where I get beat up: I get beat up because people don’t think I care about what people say. That’s totally wrong,” said Leigh, who was criticized for saying that a public hearing in October on the mayor’s proposed 2012 budget was a waste of time.
Leigh said his proposal could trigger accusations that he is trying to “feather his bed,” which he said isn’t true. Still, he said he would accept more pay while in office.
“I would not be against accepting pay if the citizens voted for that,” he said. “In other words, I wouldn’t say that it had to be something that would start six years from now.”