The only thing rising faster than inflation and rent prices in Denver is the salary of the city’s elected officials. Last night, a 4-3 vote by a committee of the Denver City Council translated into a 10.3 percent raise for the mayor and other elected officials, which, coincidentally, includes the voting city council members.
At least the three members who voted against it — Jeanne Faatz, Charlie Brown, and Judy Montero — have enough math skills to realize that a 10.3 percent (following a 6.6 percent raise that went into full effect just last year) equals a lot of money. In fact, it equals a lot more than the salaries of the voting residents in Denver and the surrounding areas. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2011 to 2013 real wage growth was 9.6 percent (from an average per capita income of $47,510 to $52,110).
Just to state the obvious, 9.6 percent over three years is less than the 10.3 percent plus the preceding 6.6 percent increases in the past 12 months.
For the elected city officials, their raises add to sizable salaries that far out-earn most Coloradans. The mayor will now earn $171,197. The auditor and clerk will take home a cool $148,061. Proponents of the raises argue that their salaries need to keep up with inflation, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports national inflation at just 1.3 percent annually. To put these six-figure salaries into context, Governor Hickenlooper only makes $90,000 per year and he’s running the entire state.
With salaries already over six figures and rumored five-figure expense accounts, some council members and Denver elected officials are out of touch with how most Denver families live when they vote themselves raises “just to keep up.” The proposal will go before the mayor-council committee next Tuesday and then for a full council vote after.