County to raise pay in tight budget year

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Routt County commissioners are committed to employee pay raises, even if it means tightening spending elsewhere.

Prioritizing compensation plans was one of the county's top three goals in the strategic plan adopted in March.

Commissioners budgeted step increases for employees during budget discussions last week. Step increases are annual pay raises for employees who demonstrate satisfactory or better performance, said county Finance Director Dan Strnad.

A market survey of other county governments and entities showed salary increases of about 6 percent among comparable county governments. Routt County will fund about 30 percent of that 6 percent increase.

Those two compensation increases will result in an average increase of 3.25 percent, Strnad said. That works out to be about $360,000 more overall for salaries in 2004 than 2003.

"The commissioners decided to do this because they understand the value their employees have with the provision of services in the county," County Manager Tom Sullivan said.

"How we maintain efficiencies is by having long-term employees who know where to look when citizens ask them questions."

Health insurance changes will help the county pay for the salary increases. The county chose a health benefits package from a new insurance company that will save about $280,000, and a life insurance and disability package that will save about $30,000.

Very few improvements and additions will take place next year, Strnad said, meaning that most of the capital expenditures fund will be spent on replacements. Phase four of a road re-construction project on Routt County Road 14, which would have rebuilt a 1.7-mile stretch of the road at the base of Yellow Jacket Pass, will not take place.

The commissioners are working on a draft budget to present for public comment Nov. 25. The budget will be adopted in early December.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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