Hayden salaries still lag

Town Board looking to increase wages in 2008 budget

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— Even with recommended pay increases in 2008, salaries for law enforcement officers in Hayden still lag about 15 percent behind pay at the Routt County Sheriff's Office and the Steamboat Springs Police Department, Hayden Police Chief Ray Birch said Tuesday.

Making wages competitive was a common discussion thread during a Town Board of Trustees discussion about Hayden's proposed 2008 budget. Town Manager Russ Martin said the rising cost of living is making it difficult for Hayden to attract top-notch employees.

In some instances, compensation packages for new hires have had to be higher than those of the veteran employees they were replacing - and that is not the way the town wants to do business, Martin said.

Hayden's Parks and Recreation Department is budgeting for an additional summer seasonal and part-time employee next year to guarantee labor instead of relying on volunteers for events.

While the balanced, $3.5 million budget shows rising costs in growth-affected areas such as public safety, such increases will be funded by double-digit increases in sales tax revenues from the Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

The current draft of the budget is still subject to change, due to financial uncertainty surrounding a replacement station for the Hayden Police Department and tax decisions to be determined in next week's election.

"We only have included grant revenues we have received," Finance Director Lisa Dowling said. The Police Department is awaiting a decision on a $500,000 grant for the estimated $1.5 million station project.

The Town Board is expected to approve a final draft at its Dec. 6 meeting.

The current draft includes $21,000 to install a digital video and audio recording system, called Digital Ally, for each of the department's six patrol cars.

The system is useful not only in prosecutions, but also in protecting the department's officers against allegations of misconduct, Birch said.

Some Town Board members questioned whether the purchase could instead be phased in throughout several years or if it is necessary at all.

"It's a lot of money for a digital camera," Trustee Lorraine Johnson said.

Martin pointed out that the town is lucky that a huge portion of its revenue is generated early in the year - by airport sales tax revenue during ski season.

This allows town officials to take stock of how funds are shaping up during the year before spending them, he said.

"We're not going to purchase everything on Jan. 1," Martin said.

To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203

or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com

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