Steamboat Springs As it enters the fourth year of employee salary freezes, the city of Steamboat Springs hasn’t had any retention issues, but Human Resources Director John Thrasher said that isn’t guaranteed to continue.
Thrasher recently presented to the Steamboat Springs City Council an update of Steamboat’s most recent salary survey, which was conducted in 2008 to develop Steamboat’s pay plan for 2009.
“Are we competitive? Especially in the local market, yes,” he told City Council members Jan. 17. “If the economy recovers, I think we have to be careful not to be behind the curve and lose good people because, slowly but surely, the economy seems to be recovering.”
Thrasher said Tuesday that city staff members were working to update the salary survey that would be used to develop a new pay plan for the 2013 budget.
General Services Director Anne Small will present the salary survey of fire departments at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Thrasher is retiring after more than 30 years with the city. His last day is Thursday.
Small said the fire department salary information will be presented separately from the rest of the salary survey because City Council requested Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue personnel salary information and an updated survey for a discussion about fire-related issues next week.
“We hope to have a comprehensive picture of salary information of the whole organization by May,” she said.
The city froze employee pay starting in 2009, though it provided one-time bonuses the three subsequent years. In March 2009, the city also reduced employee pay by 10 percent by instituting the 36-hour work week, which also enters its fourth year in 2012.
At the time, according to the 2008 survey, 48 percent of city employees’ salaries were below the minimum recommended range for their positions.
Thrasher said a recent survey of city employees indicated preference for the shortened work week. He said the city’s benefits, which include 100 percent medical and dental coverage for the employee (there are costs for dependents), retirement plan contributions and a $400 “wellness perk” for just about any type of recreation continue to be competitive.
But Thrasher said continuing to freeze salaries could result in some of the city’s best employees looking elsewhere as salaries increase nationwide. He said that was the biggest concern moving forward.
In 2009, providing a pay increase for city employees would have cost about $740,000. Thrasher couldn’t say how much it would cost next year. He said the reduction in employees since 2008 (306 to 254), reclassification of positions and the percentage of the increase would factor into the cost.
Thrasher offered a caveat to the updated salary survey and pay plan that will be used for next year’s budget.
“At this point,” he said, “I think it’s really, really important to understand that the study doesn’t mean we’re going down the path of giving pay increases but to see where we are in the marketplace and the importance of giving pay increases.”
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com