Eliminating golf benefit doubles trustees' pay

By Hank Lohmeyer

The Cedaredge Town Board has doubled the monthly paychecks for trustees and increased the mayor's pay while saying it isn't a raise.

Under the plan adopted as Ordinance 2015-10 on Dec. 10, the next members elected to the board of trustees will get 100 percent more money for their service than current trustees do. In addition, the person elected Cedaredge mayor this coming April will receive almost 60 percent more money for the post than the current mayor receives. Neither of those increases is considered a raise in the view of trustees or of town hall.

Ordinance 2015-10 accomplished this accounting magic by "eliminating" the town board's golf benefit and compensating trustees directly with a bigger paycheck.

The town board golf benefit perk offers sitting trustees and the mayor with up to $1,750 worth of free greens fees and golf cart use annually. Some board members use the golf benefit and others don't. Trustees who don't use the benefit are paid a base of $75 per month ($900 per year). Trustees who do use the benefit are getting their $900 plus up to full value of the golf benefit -- a total annual compensation of $2,650.

According to discussion at the town board's November work session where the issue was aired, the possibility of non-golfing trustees wasn't foreseen by anyone when the benefit was enacted some years ago to entice candidates to run for public office.

To address this differential in compensation which Mayor Pat Means calls "unfair," the trustees adopted Ordinance 2015-10; a complex and detailed scheme that addresses the unfairness by giving everyone more money every month -- money which board members at their November work session said is not to be considered as a raise.

The accounting that underlies Ordinance 2015-10 is summed up in the ordinance. This ordinance is essentially summing historic budgeted compensation and benefit expenditures and reallocating to compensation without increasing expenditures." It was accomplished as follows:

• Town hall number crunchers determined the "historical cost of [town board] compensation plus golf benefits from the year 2000 to 2013.

• The sum arrived at was then divided up during negotiation among trustees and the mayor at their Nov. 12 work session.

The end result is that beginning with the April 2016 election, the mayor's pay -- which is $300 per month now -- will jump to $475 per month. New trustees will see a doubling of their checks from $75 per month to $150 per month.

Currently seated elected officials will have to become newly elected to qualify for the higher pay.

New trustees will no longer be able to golf at the town-owned golf course at no charge. The benefit continues for the balance of the terms for seated trustees. A lifetime golf benefit offered to elected officials who have served eight consecutive years will not be made available to those elected in future; however, sitting trustees and others still qualify to receive it. (See related story.)

During their November work session, Mayor Means noted the "negativity" she often hears about town board pay-and-benefit arrangements. Trustee Ray Hanson seconded the remark saying, "I get it all the time."

The stated objective of Ordinance 2015-10 is to achieve fairness by eliminating the town board golf benefit. It does not reduce costs. Instead, the ordinance converts the cost of golf benefits actually utilized by some of the board members to added pay to all elected officials.

The golf benefit that is extended to salaried town employees is not affected by Ordinance 2015-10.