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Council OKs pay raise for new members

The City Council on Tuesday approved a bill 4-1 that will increase newly elected members’ pay by about $9,000 a year. That amount will be reviewed every two years.

Instead of $11,000 a year, newly elected members will make $20,000 a year in base pay, according to the new bill. As mayor, Rod Woodbury will make $26,000 a year, or 30 percent extra as voted by council. Woodbury said he would donate the additional 30 percent to the charity of Mayor Roger Tobler’s choice.

According to Section 6 of the city’s charter, the council may determine the salaries of the council members and the mayor, but no such adjustments can take place until after the following election.

The decision to raise pay was not an easy one, as council members spent about two hours discussing the issue.

Woodbury, who brought the issue to city staff’s attention, gave a lengthy presentation on the history of the council’s pay, as well as a long list of tasks each council member does while performing his or her civic duties. He said he has spent about 30 hours a week representing the city this year, although how much each council member works varies.

During his presentation, he said council pay increased slightly from the 1970s throughout the 1990s. In 1990, each council member received about $8,100 in base pay, but also received about $11,000 with benefits and a car allowance.

A bill was introduced in the late 1990s to increase pay once again, but a ballot question repealed any substantial raise, and the council’s benefits also were repealed, Woodbury said.

The council’s current base pay of approximately $11,000 per year has been in effect since 2000, with the mayor making a little less than $14,000.

When Woodbury asked others if they would run for council, they told him the low pay was the main reason they chose not to. He said he was “astonished” when Councilmen Cam Walker and Duncan McCoy ran unopposed in 2013, and was surprised that nobody challenged him for mayor in this year’s election.

He cited the low pay as a reason why.

“That was my goal to make sure we talk about it, because it’s a critical issue for the city,” Woodbury said. “We haven’t had any dialogue about it for 15 years.”

The council was presented with three potential options to raise its pay. The first option would allow council members to make 34 percent of what Clark County commissioners make, the second was a step-process where pay would increase $5,000 per term, and the third option was a raise across the board.

Council members decided on the third option, although the $20,000 per year they agreed on was $7,000 a year less than what was proposed during the May 12 meeting.

Several community members spoke in favor of a pay raise, including former Boulder City Mayor Eric Lundgaard, who first brought the issue to Woodbury’s attention a few years ago. Woodbury said he didn’t think about it much at the time because the city was still facing financial issues and was in the middle of collective bargaining for employees.

“Your responsibilities are much greater than mine,” Lundgaard said. “I realize there is a lot of effort, and I also recognize that your love for this city is pretty profound.”

Former Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury also spoke in favor of a pay raise. He said every other city council adjusts its salaries on a regular basis, and Boulder City’s low pay was a deterrent for others who wanted to run for office.

“When I became a county commissioner in 1981, the salary for a county commissioner at that time was higher than your salary is today in 2015,” he said.

Councilwoman Peggy Leavitt said council members who work full time sacrifice financially to serve the community. She said she felt passionate about the issue.

McCoy said he was fine with never receiving a pay raise while on council, although he said he would respect the decision either way. He was the only member to vote against the raise.

Tobler also supported a raise, and referenced additional responsibilities council took on, including taking the time to speak with members of the community who approached him with questions.

“Home Hardware, I think, became the complaint center of this community for 12 years,” he said jokingly about his family’s hardware store. “But just getting to know this community at this level is worth it. It really is.

“But if you look at what our expenses have been, I don’t think there are councils that come close to this. We have been responsible, and not only that, we have brought the finances back. This was a team effort by a lot of people who did this. We have been a responsible city government.”

Bruce Woodbury, father of Mayor-elect Rod Woodbury, said Boulder City’s low pay also undermines the city’s importance to the rest of Clark County.

“Your extremely low salary not only deters potential candidates, but frankly it degrades the prestige of your office and of your city government,” he said. “It reinforces the false narrative that Boulder City is an inconsequential, small-town governmental entity rather than a major force of regional government.”

Contact reporter Steven Slivka at sslivka@bouldercityreview.com or 702-586-9401. Follow him on Twitter @StevenSlivka.

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