Majority of members of city council say they would accept less
Confronted with a budget that has been deflated by the city’s biggest revenue drop in 25 years, all regular full-time and part-time Grand Junction city employees will take a 3 percent pay cut next year.
The salary reduction, which will take effect Jan. 1 and save the city $1.5 million, joins a hiring freeze, program and equipment purchase cuts and other maneuvers implemented earlier this year to shave millions of dollars in expenses.
But what about City Council members? Will they follow suit and join nearly 700 city employees in absorbing a hit to their pocketbooks?
The mayor receives $750 a month, while the rest of the council is paid $500 a month. The council’s pay is set by the city charter, and it can’t be increased or decreased without a vote of the people. That means council members would have to voluntarily surrender a slice of their pay.
A 3 percent reduction would result in $22.50 less per month for the mayor and $15 less per month for the rest of the council. Any savings will be put back in the city’s general fund. At most, that fund would take back in $1,350 next year.
So, are council members willing to make 3 percent less in 2010? Here are their responses:
— Mayor Bruce Hill
Hill said a pay cut is important symbolically.
Quote: “I’m certainly willing to give 3 percent back to the city, just like I’m asking employees not to get 3 percent.”
— Councilwoman Bonnie Beckstein
Beckstein wasn’t present last week when the council broached the idea of taking a pay cut and therefore hadn’t heard the idea before. She said she hasn’t taken a position but indicated she would favor cutting council expenses by reducing their out-of-town travel.
Quote: “I don’t have a problem with (a pay reduction). But I would like to talk to the council first.”
— Councilwoman Teresa Coons
Coons said she also will ask the city to eliminate her vehicle allowance, which she estimated at $60 a month.
Quote: “It’s important to me. I recognize the fact that it’s not going to have any major impact on our budget, but I think its says to the city employees that we’re willing to do what we’re asking them to do.”
— Councilman Tom Kenyon
Kenyon said he will take a pay cut based on the belief that city leaders shouldn’t ask their staff to do something they’re not willing to do themselves.
Quote: “Even though monetarily it’s not much money, it’s the principle of the thing. I’m more than happy to do it. All the horses need to be pulling in the same direction if we’re going to accomplish the same goal.”
— Councilman Gregg Palmer
Palmer said it’s important to send the message to city employees that everyone — including the council — is making sacrifices to bolster the budget during lean times.
Quote: “I think it’s only fair that if I as a council member am going to ask city employees to take a cut like that, symbolically, I should also do that.”
— Councilman Bill Pitts
After returning home from a four-hour, city-related meeting and before leaving again for another two-hour meeting, Pitts responded with an emphatic “No!” when contacted by phone Wednesday.
Quote: “It’s not just going to council meetings,” he said of devoting time as a council member. “It’s all the other things. I’m going to put the money in my billfold.”
— Councilwoman Linda Romer Todd
Todd said council members can spend 20 to 30 hours a week performing their duties and said that kind of time takes away from their paying, full-time jobs.
Quote: “When I think of what council gives out of our own pockets whenever we do things representing the city that we don’t charge back on expense accounts, we give above and beyond as public servants.”