Commission wants pay kept under state statute

Mesa County commissioners are not in favor of legislation aimed at giving them control over setting their own salaries as well as the salaries of other elected officials in the county.

Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, and Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 3 to the state Senate Wednesday. If approved, the resolution would allow Colorado voters to decide whether to scratch the current system for setting county elected officials’ pay via Colorado Revised Statutes and replace it with a system where county commissioners could set elected officials’ pay with guidance from a citizens’ commission on county officer compensation.

Statutory pay scales assign annual pay for county sheriffs, commissioners, assessors, clerks and recorders, treasurers and coroners in one of five categories based on county population. Mesa County is in category two, which sets the sheriff’s pay at $87,700, the coroner’s pay at $44,200, and assigns a salary of $72,500 to all remaining elected positions mentioned above. 

The resolution cites infrequent updates to the pay scales and the pay not keeping up with similar positions in those counties as reasons qualified people may eschew running for those jobs. But Mesa County commissioners said in a discussion of the legislation last week they don’t see that as a concern.

Commissioner Rose Pugliese said she can see how some young professionals in particular may struggle with the decision to run for office if they have to give up a business or balance a business with serving in office, then figure out what to do after their term is up, but still she said plenty of other people do run for local office.

“I don’t want anyone running for the salary. God knows I’m not here for the salary,” Pugliese said.

Commissioner John Justman said state legislators make even less, $30,000 a year, but “there’s no shortage of people running.” Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, who is running for state representative in House District 55 this fall and also has an orchard, added he is concerned about the legislators who don’t balance another job with their work at the Capitol. He said having another profession outside politics helps elected officials “re-engage with the community and the economy” after a four-month legislative session.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 3 proposes allowing commissioners to adjust their own pay only at the start of each term or appointment on the board. Commissioners could increase other elected officials’ pay, however, at the beginning of any fiscal year or decrease pay at the beginning of any term of office. The pay of all county elected officials except for county commissioners would have to be increased or decreased at the same time.


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