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Council’s salaries on low end

When it comes to the size of an annual paycheck, Boulder City Council members rank near the bottom for Clark County elected officials.

According to Transparent Nevada, a website that shows the salary of the state’s public employees, the average base pay for a Boulder City councilman is about $11,000 per year. As mayor, Roger Tobler makes about $14,000 per year.

Compare the base pay of Boulder City’s elected officials to those of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson, and Boulder City is a distant fourth.

The average base pay for a Henderson councilman is about $45,000 a year, while a Las Vegas councilman makes about $75,000 a year. North Las Vegas Council members make about $41,000 a year.

In 2013, the most updated year on Transparent Nevada, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman made $178,687, with more than $135,000 in base pay.

Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen made about $73,000 in 2013 with a base pay of $55,632. That same year, Tobler made approximately $17,000 with a base pay of about $14,000.

Tobler said the pay for Boulder City elected officials is low, but was adamant that the primary reason for serving on the council should be to better the community.

“We need to be fair, but I also think here in Boulder, your main reason for running needs to be for service and civic duty,” he said.

Henderson Councilwoman Debra March said the amount of physical time each council member can give to his or her municipality always varies. Some have full-time jobs, while others, like her, are retired. March said she works 40 to 60 hours a week handling city matters.

“It’s a part-time job, but I treat this as a full-time commitment,” she said.

March said some of Boulder City’s features, such as its smaller population and fewer roads, contribute to the lower pay. She also said the lack of pay can turn more people away from running for office.

“You want to attract your best and brightest,” she said.

Boulder City Councilman Cam Walker, who sits on seven boards in Clark County, said he usually spends eight to 10 hours a week handling city matters.

“I didn’t do it for the money, but I can see the hardship it would put on some community members if it took eight to 10 hours per week,” he said. “When you break it down by hour, it doesn’t amount to very much.”

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

In 2001, a voter initiative was passed to ensure that councilmen were reimbursed for their travel by mileage as opposed to the $350 monthly stipend they once received. Federal law requires they be reimbursed for their travel expenses.

The number of candidates running for the Boulder City Council has dropped dramatically during the past six years. Five people ran for the two council vacancies in 2011 after 10 candidates ran in both 2007 and 2009.

Duncan McCoy and Walker ran unopposed during their re-election bids in 2013, and just three candidates vied for the two vacancies this year. And with term limits preventing Tobler from seeking re-election, Rod Woodbury was the only candidate for mayor.

The drop in participation has been sharp, but Tobler said it isn’t because of the pay.

“We’ve never been paid well. If you compare us to Mesquite, we’re not that far away. In Henderson and (Las) Vegas … I don’t think we should get paid what they get paid,” he said. “I think it is low, but quite honestly, I haven’t really looked into it.”

Transparent Nevada shows that Mesquite Council members received $12,500 to $28, 600 in combined base pay and benefits in 2013.

Tobler said the city was going through tough economic times when he was elected mayor in 2007, so raising the council’s pay wasn’t on his mind.

“When I came on, we had financial difficulties. We had a very divided community at the time,” he said. “There are some people out there who think we shouldn’t get paid at all. I don’t agree with that.”

With salary, retirement benefits and travel, along with a few other expenditures, about $123,000 will be spent to pay the council this year. That amount equals 4 percent of the city’s approximate $30 million budget.

Eric Lundgaard, former Boulder City mayor and councilman, said he was paid about $11,000 a year when he was mayor 20 years ago. He said the council’s responsibilities have expanded since his tenure, and they should be compensated for it.

“No other city in Nevada leases 8,000 acres of land or operates an electrical utility. We have placed tremendous responsibilities upon our City Council. I know of no other city in Nevada that has this kind of responsibility,” Lundgaard said. “The responsibilities have continued to grow since being paid $11,000 a year.”

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

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