Avon Town Council urged to give up salaries | VailDaily.com

Avon Town Council urged to give up salaries

Matt Zalaznick

The town’s budget deficit is sinking toward $700,000, cutbacks are looming and officials are scrambling for new revenue sources. Planning and Zoning Commissioner Ron Wolfe –who is running for Town Council this November – says council members and planning commissioners should give up their salaries while the economic crisis persists.

Salaries for members of the two part-time boards cost the town approximately $60,000 a year.

“I recommend you consider eliminating compensation as long as there’s a budget shortfall,” Wolfe said at last week’s Town Council meeting. “Or accept only a nominal fee to compensate for true out-of-pocket expenses.”

Though $60,000 is a drop in the recessionary bucket, Wolfe says council members and planning commissioners could set an example in dark economic times where town employees may not get any raises next year and non-essential services may be scrapped.

The mayor, for example, receives $12,000 a year, and each of the other six council members is paid $6,000 annually, Avon Town Manager Bill Efting said. The seven-member Planning and Zoning Commission, which advises the town on development projects, earns a total of $12,000 a year.

Councilman Pete Buckley Tuesday night returned his paycheck for the month to protest his colleagues’ decision to put a tax on building supplies on the November ballot.

The 4 percent tax applies to all building materials used in the town of Avon. It passed by a slim 4-3 margin Tuesday night.

“We need to try other things first before we raise taxes,” Buckley said.

But Councilman Buz Reynolds says he’s not about to return his paycheck. He says for the amount of hours he puts in working for the town, the salary ends up being pretty small.

“For the amount of time I put into the town, it’s a ridiculous amount of money per hour,” Reynolds says. “It’s way below minimum wage.”

Council members deserve some compensation for the various duties they perform on behalf of the town. Council meetings meet for about two to three hours every other Tuesday, and many members represent the town on regional boards and commissions.

“My time is worth something,” he says. “I give a lot of time to the town that I don’t get paid for; I’ve been doing it for 19 years. What I am paid is really not that much, so I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Mayor Judy Yoder says the last time salaries for council members were raised, some council members couldn’t afford to pay for child care while they were at meetings.

“It was done so anyone of any economic status could still run without losing money, but also not gain much,” Yoder says. “And I think it’s appropriate that Town Council be paid something for the time they put it in.”

Councilwoman Debbie Buckley says eschewing salaries is a good idea for council members and planning commissioners who can afford to give it up.

“I think it’s a great idea if people want to do it voluntarily,” Debbie Buckley says. “But it’s a part-time job and some people would need to get another part time job if they weren’t doing this.”

The salary, though not large, encourages more people to serve on the Town Council, Buckley says.

“We want to a have a cross-section of the community on council, not just people who can afford to do it for free,” she says.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.

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