A split City Council approved a measure Tuesday night that will provide its members with an increase in compensation come spring.
The council voted in favor of the ordinance by a 3-2 vote with Bob Nicholson, Kathy Ellis and David Romero voting yes, and Carol McDermott and Mayor Judy Ann Files voting no.
The measure goes into effect in 2014 and will raise the amount of money councilors are paid each month to $750 for the mayor and $650 for councilors. Councilors currently make $275 a month. In 2016, if the council votes to continue with the increase, compensation will go up to $1,000 for mayor and $900 for councilors.
Nicholson was very much in favor of the ordinance, explaining that the stipend is intended to defray the costs councilors incur during their service. He believes the change will help convince younger candidates to run for the City Council.
“The real issue that exists is that for younger and working-class people, it’s absolutely crucial that they have enough to really offset their actual costs, and I don’t know if this will do it, but it is a step,” Nicholson said. “We don’t have a balanced council. We have four retired people ... It’s appropriate that we become more a cross-section of the people of Montrose.”
Former Mayor Jose Abeyta spoke in support of the ordinance for the same reasons. He said with the increase, working-class people will be able to participate in government like they should be able to do.
“If you look at council, 80 percent of them are retired,” Abeyta said. “(Currently) there’s only one working member. He’s a probation supervisor, so his income, in my opinion, is upper middle class. The working class is not represented in council. Local government should enable anybody that wants to serve to serve.”
But McDermott expressed doubts that the increase will attract a broader range of candidates. She said she has seen working class people with families on the school board, which is a nonpaying position, and they have made that work.
“I voted against the amendment because I think it’s too much money,” McDermott said. “I had spoken during the council meeting that I was willing to go with a consumer price index, which would have raised it from $275 to $312 for a councilor with the addition that it could be every two years, if the council so desired, to keep with the CPI.”
Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, a number of citizens expressed their opposition to the city’s defunding of the Black Canyon Golf Course during the public comment period.
City Manager Bill Bell said that the city will address the issue by starting with a media campaign so the community fully understands the details of the decision that was made. He said that will take place over the next two weeks. After that, the City Council will determine if a public forum needs to be held on the issue.