BOZEMAN – One city commissioner is sparking up the conversation around minimum wage.
At the June 4 city commission meeting, Commissioner Terry Cunningham said he wanted to change city employees’ minimum wage to $15 an hour.
He hopes to do this on a gradual basis, increasing the minimum wage for fiscal year 2019 to $13 an hour, $14 an hour for FY20 and $15 an hour for FY21.
Bozeman currently follows Montana’s set minimum wage but they wouldn’t be the first city to change that. Missoula decided to set its own wage in 2015. As of right now, it is set at $15 an hour.
Cunningham decided to bring the wage discussion to commissioners because he doesn’t think it is feasible for employees making less than $15 an hour to be able to live affordably. He says the wage increase over the years does not match the cost associated with living.
"So that is the gap that we really need to keep an eye on. What does it really cost to live and to pay rent in Bozeman and how does your compensation fit into that package?” said Cunningham.
Rose Nittler, a lifeguard at Bogert Pool, says she makes around $10.50 per hour. She says if she did not live with multiple roommates, she could not make her rent payment each month.
"Ten dollars is a little hard to live on, especially when pay for college. As an employee, I would absolutely love to get paid $15 an hour. Unfortunately, there is certain budget that the city has and well any business has. So I think it is a great idea, but it might be a little hard to implement at first,” said Nittler.
Other commissioners and Mayor Cyndy Andrus have expressed interest in adjusting minimum wage but they will not bring not schedule it for a vote until they have data on how many employees this would affect.
"I think it is important for the public to understand that we do pay a fair-market rate and that there will be more information that is needed for us to make a really good informed decision,” said Andrus.
As for when commissioners will bring it up for a vote, the answer is unclear. Andrus said the wage discussion will be placed on the backburner in order for commissioners to focus on the budget within the next month. However, Cunningham believes it needs to be decided on before then to incorporate the cost before the budget is final.