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Bozeman Mayor proposes wage increase for commissioners

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: Nov 19 2013 07:29:52 PM MST
Updated On: Nov 19 2013 10:12:33 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Bozeman's mayor is looking to give city commissioners a raise. Monday night he proposed commissioners get $300 more a month, putting their salary at $1,200 a month.

The mayor would get one and half times that, for a total of $1,800.

Here's a look at Bozeman Commissioners' current salary compared to similarly structured city governments in the state.

Great Falls commissioners get $312 a month. The Great Falls Mayor gets $468 a month.

In Kalispell, commissioners make $416 a month while the mayor makes $750 a month.

Mayor Sean Becker calculates commissioners' current yearly salary. He tells us the low pay effectively creates an exclusive division of government.

"You have to have outside money, you have to be retired or you have to be willing to compromise tremendously on your time with your family and your work and everything else," says Becker.

Becker explains being a commissioner takes at least 20 hours a week, from the commission meeting to attending events and speaking with specials interest groups and the public. He says that cuts into into time they could be spending at work.

"If they're not able to work, then they're not able to live in Bozeman," says Becker.

He says just $300 more a month could open up the commission to all community members.

"I think it's important that our local government is comprised of all members of our community...and that we're able to have a truly representative forum. If we can't require the means when we require the time, then we're not going to get that representation," explains Becker.

While Becker tells us more compensation will lead to more inclusion, other commissioners say more money could cause corruption.

"At every level, the influence of money is corrupting and I don't think we need to invite more corruption into our local government by inviting more money into it by making it more lucrative," explains Deputy Mayor Jeff Krauss.

Krauss recognizes not everybody will be able to run for commission due to lack of pay, but says commission seats are often contested.

"I've seen a number of candidates over the years run for commission and it's not all been retired old guys or something like that. It's been all kinds of people," Krauss says.

Krauss tells us being commissioner isn't about a paycheck, it's about providing a public service.

"I think Mayor Becker's proposal takes us much more towards the congressional model and far away from the citizen legislature model and I just don't think that's right for Bozeman," says Krauss.

Becker agrees it's not about the money, but says everyone has bills to pay. We asked Becker whether he thought more money could influence commissioners' decisions.

"I don't think $14,000 a year part-time position is going to be the driving factor in keeping somebody in city council in perpetuity," Becker says.

If approved, a raise wouldn't go into effect until 2016 and would not affect Becker. The public will have the opportunity to weigh in at the city commission meeting on December 2.