City tables compensation vote

Mixed sentiments aired on multiple options

Two individuals spoke at a public hearing before the Moab City Council on Tuesday, June 11, regarding a proposal to increase the level of compensation for the mayor and members of the city council. One spoke in favor of the compensation proposal, the other against it.

City Planning Commission Chair Allison Brown spoke first. She qualified that she was not speaking on behalf of the City Planning Commission.

Brown pointed out that the increase in compensation represented about a doubling in spending on the mayor and council members while planning commissioners, who are paid $50 for each planning meeting they attend, would see no raise.

“I would like each of you to justify to all the other part-time city employees why you are more deserving of health benefits than they are,” Brown said.

Barbara Hicks, who had previously spoken during a city council meeting in favor of the compensation increases, returned to repeat her sentiment. “I am definitely in favor of increased compensation, and my primary reason is you guys have not gotten a big raise in 20 years, and unfortunately, you’re playing catch-up, and it’s happening all in one year,” Hicks said. “I’m sorry that’s falling on your shoulders, but it’s long overdue, and whatever you come up with, I’m sure it will be fair and equitable.”

Council members voted after the public hearing to table the matter until the next meeting, which would be the last opportunity to make a final decision before the new budget takes effect on July 1.

Council Member Rani Derasary said she did not favor a vote on the proposal during the meeting because of glitches in previous attempts by the city to publicly release the new compensation proposals, as well as a lack of clarity in that documentation regarding how the compensation would be paid out (i.e. as health benefits or as salary). “I would be opposed to voting tonight, and I would kind of hope we have a second public hearing,” Derasary said.

City council members unanimously passed a motion to table the matter until its next meeting June 20.

City staff presented five options for how the compensation would be paid out to council members. Three of the options would keep the base salary of city officials the same, with the proposed increase in elected official compensation going toward health benefits.

One option was to replace the base pay of council members and the mayor with a health benefits equivalent, and the final option was to add the health benefits equivalent to the existing base salaries.

With these two options, rather than receiving health benefits, the mayor and council members would see an increase to their salaries.

With the replacement option, the new salary would be equivalent to what the city would have spent on their health benefits. With the additional option, that money would be added to the existing salary levels.

The city council now faces a multitude of changes that it could make, including an option to make no change at all. The council may increase the salary of elected officials, or, as proposed at the previous meeting, it may offer elected officials a choice of how they receive health benefits.

Providing elected officials a choice of how they receive health benefits would not result in a salary increase unless the council approved an option for elected officials to take their health benefit equivalent (i.e. the amount of money the city would have spent on their health benefits) as a part of their salary.

The council can also create new options that it could approve, but the spending would be limited to what is allocated in the budget. The maximum amount of spending allowed by the recently approved budget would cover the cost paying elected officials’ existing base salary, with additional spending that can cover their health benefits.

However, even the budget can be amended if the council decides to do so.