City salaries 'competitive'

Pay comparable to that of other mountain towns

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— After bumping some city employees' salaries up last year to stay competitive with comparable mountain towns, salaries are now roughly on par with Steamboat's competitors, said the city's director of human resources.

"I think that our ranges will be really competitive in the 2001 salary survey," Human Resources Director John Thrasher said.

Because the city, like other employers in Steamboat, has trouble hiring and retaining good employees, it has had to keep tabs on the policies of similar municipalities and adjust salaries accordingly, Thrasher said.

"We're struggling to hire and retain quality employees," Thrasher said. "It's just so competitive these days."

Management positions in Steamboat pay about as well or better than similar positions in nearby communities.

Planning Director Wendie Schulenberg, for instance, who makes $77,022, is near the top of the city's pay scale for her position that ranges from $56,184 to $80,112. Breckenridge's planning director receives a salary of $79,284 on a scale that ranges from $57,756 to $79,284, according to a Colorado Municipal League compensation report. The Aspen community development director (equivalent to our planning director) makes $77,136 on a scale that ranges from $57,804 to $80,808. One's position on a pay scale mostly has to do with experience and performance, Thrasher said.

In the past, human resources directors were less interested in what other communities were doing, Thrasher said. But because employees have been looking to maximize their earnings potential in towns such as Steamboat that have high costs of living, Steamboat has had to offer more competitive salaries to stay even, Thrasher said. If the city does not at least stay even with nearby towns, he added, employees will be quick to relocate.

"It's gone from difficult to almost impossible for people to live here and try to subsist on an entry-level job," Thrasher said.

Thrasher said the demographics of the average Steamboat city employee has had to adjust to the fact that it is expensive to raise a family in Steamboat, especially because of the cost of housing. More young people are applying for positions, as are older individuals who do not necessarily need to be making as much money, he said. The city has had to increase salaries in the past few years to attempt to pull in the most qualified applicants, especially those supporting families.

In the interest of keeping more police officers, for instance, the city increased officers' starting salaries by 15 percent in 2000, from $28,753 to $33,009. The police officer turnover rate had been extremely high in 1999.

The city came up with the new officer salaries after conducting a salary survey in 1999, which the city conducts every other year. The survey compared Steamboat's salaries to those of other municipalities, districts, nonprofits and private businesses.

City employees who received a large raise this year, however, should not expect the same level of increase as of 2001.

The city did institute about a 3 percent shift in the range of salaries available to employees in each position, which did influence the starting salary in each department and elevated the top of the range. Those in the middle of the range, however, did not receive an increase from the 3 percent shift despite being able to eventually reach for higher salaries at the top of the range.

The city based its approximately 3 percent shift on the consumer price index calculated for the Denver-Boulder area.

The city has no automatic annual raises based on experience but has instituted a pay-for-performance system that allows an employee to receive as much as an 8 percent raise due to strong job performance as noted in a supervisors' evaluation. That evaluation will be undertaken on an annual basis on the date the employee was hired. Therefore, an employee initially hired in December may not receive his annual pay-for-performance evaluation and subsequent raise until December 2001.

"It's really a way to be accountable to taxpayers, rather than having some arbitrary increase," Thrasher said. "We will reward people who do a good job."

Thrasher said employees have embraced this new process, which replaces a system through which an employee could receive cost-of-living raises, raises based on the results of a salary survey and performance raises, but were unsure of which might go into effect in a given year.

"It's always a good thing to do a revision of an older process," said Public Works Director Jim Weber. "They're just trying to make the process a little bit more definitive."

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