Aurora, CO

Aurora may ask voters to triple salaries of City Council members

David Heitz
Aurora City Council chambers.Photo byCity of Aurora

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Aurora, Colo.) The Aurora City Council will discuss a ballot measure during its study session Monday that would ask voters to increase the salaries of City Council members.

In fact, the recommendation from city staff is that the salaries be more than tripled to $67,889 from $20,063 currently. Aurora is the third-largest city in Colorado with almost 390,000 residents in 2021. By comparison, Denver City Council members make more than $100,000 annually.

In theory, Denver’s strong-mayor form of government means the City Council must work hard to maintain checks and balances. Aurora is a strong city manager form of government, which means the administration of the city is left to a non-political professional.

Exponential growth since 1961

Although some may argue that City Council members in these types of cities don’t have as much responsibility, the bill to ask voters, brought forth by council member Angela Lawson, dispels such notions. “The salaries for mayor, mayor pro tem, and members of the council reflect a presumption that council members serve in elected office as a part-time position …. The physical growth and population growth of the City of Aurora have been exponential since the charter was adopted in 1961, and the City of Aurora’s size and scope has additional needs and responsibilities to fulfill.”

Lawson’s bill proposes an $80,000 salary for the mayor, which is slightly less than he makes now. The bill lists “to be determined” for the mayor pro tem and council salaries.

How staff arrived at their proposal

City staff based their proposal on a job evaluation, analysis, and recommendation from Human Resources. “The evaluation followed human resources' established process of considering the job’s duties,
responsibilities, required knowledge, skills and abilities, comparable compensation market data
and aligned with the city’s compensation and classification structure,” according to a memo from city staff to council. “In summary, HR’s recommendation uses the out-of-state data as a reasonable and ‘good match’ for the mayor, and then sets the compensation for the mayor pro tem and council members using multiple factors based on a ‘pay discount’ from the mayor’s position and compensation.”

Charter Review Committee bows out

The city’s Charter Review ad hoc Policy Committee declined to offer a recommendation on this and other ballot measures proposed by council members. Among numerous reasons listed for not offering an opinion, the committee reported in a memo to council they only heard from each bill’s sponsor and had no way of soliciting differing views. The committee reported they worked on a compressed timeline that did not allow them to appropriately fulfill their duties.

Even if the council approves the ballot measure during the study session, it still must be approved at two consecutive council meetings.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at community newspapers in Southern California and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am proof that people can rebound from even severe mental illness with proper treatment. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living in the Mile High City. You can email me news releases and story ideas at

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