Steamboat Springs City Council votes down pay raises

Decision reverses June 19 vote on salary bumps for staff

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After hearing strong opposition from its constituents during the past two weeks and taking a closer look at the city’s financial health, Steamboat Springs City Council reversed its stance on a first round of pay increases for city employees Tuesday night, deferring further discussions on the matter until its full 2013 budget hearings in October.

Council voted, 5-2, to reject a funding ordinance that would have spent $1.05 million over the next 18 months to give some employees raises with the intent of restoring balance to the city pay scale.

Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski urged her colleagues to delay any decision until the formal budget process is under way this fall and the full ramifications for city finances and its reserve fund can be better understood.

“Why is it an emergency that we need to solve this problem right now and pass an appropriations ordinance that makes it effective immediately?” Hermacinski asked. “We’re three months away from our 2013 budget,” process.

Council member Sonja Macys disagreed, saying the resignation of key employees — the public works director, a city planner and several police officers and firefighters — were a sign that the city needs to take some action.

“My feeling is it is time to address this. It is urgent,” Macys said. “Our (budget) reserves were built on the backs of our employees, and I firmly believe that. How many really good employees do we have to lose before we say we have a broken model?”

Council had voted, 4-3, on June 19 in favor of a plan to give employee raises to address the phenomenon known as wage compression that arises when new hires are brought in at salaries very close to those of veteran employees whose wages have been frozen for several years.

However, when it came time to put money behind those intentions Tuesday night, two council members changed their votes. Councilman Kenny Reisman and Walter Magill, who previously voted to address compression, created a new majority along with Hermacinski, Council President Bart Kounovsky and Council President pro-tem Scott Myller in rejecting the funding ordinance.

Council member Kevin Kaminski joined Macys in voting for the compression raises.

Most of Tuesday’s discussion was devoted to a second round of pay increases intended to make the city’s salary structure competitive with other mountain resort towns. Those pay increases would have cost $800,000 this year and would grow by an estimated $300,000 annually.

Reisman said he has heard from dozens of his constituents and the sentiment has been overwhelmingly against giving the pay increases.

City Manager Jon Robert expressed concerns that trend lines described by declining city sales tax revenues and rising overall costs of employee compensation were coming perilously close together.

“When those lines cross it becomes unsustainable,” Roberts said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

cindy constantine 2 years, 4 months ago

Thank you, Cari and other Council members for voting this down for the time being! Sends a message to the community that "we are all in this together" as so many community members have continued to struggle with making a living wage. Just take a walk like I did today down Lincoln Ave and count the number of "For Rent" signs. A frightening dose of reality and the business closures are not over yet.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 4 months ago

Well, the planner might have resigned from being completely bored. Planning staff is so very nice, but a quick look at the pending applications board which is just one item suggests their workload is less than overwhelming.

Sonja Macys, the paper may be misquoting you, but your quote in the paper convinces this liberal that you fundamentally do not understand economics and thus that I need to vote for your opponent in the next election. Yes, people leaving city jobs can be a concern. But it is absolutely wrong to advocate an unsustainable pay increase. It is particularly irresponsible when the city staff pay raise report makes no claims that city has had any issues finding highly qualified job applicants.

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Dan Hill 2 years, 4 months ago

"Our (budget) reserves were built on the backs of our employees" - no Sonia they were built on the backs of taxpayers (sure tourists pay a bunch of sales tax but us locals still feel the sting of a sales tax that everyone seems determined to drive to ten percent every time we buy something)

Nobody wants city employees to be underpaid, but is it too much to ask for them to share the economic pain being felt by the rest of the community? Lots of jobs in Steamboat pay less than they might elsewhere - that's the price for living in paradise - and most people in the the private sector can barely remember the last time they had a raise and ak whole lot of us are paying a fortune for our own health insurance. Let's keep the challenges of city employees in perspective...

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mark hartless 2 years, 4 months ago

"Building Reserves on the backs of workers... " Yeah, Right... 4 tiring, grueling, 8-hour days/ week??? With how many sick-days, vacation-days, benefits????

What passes for hard times in some people's version of modern-day America is really comical.

Perhaps Sonja Macys needs to further trace the City's revenue stream. It leads to the backs of her constituents; many of whom are not nearly as well-compensated as she apparently thinks.

Dan is exactly right. And he does not need to distinguish between tourists and locals. No matter where they live they are STILL taxpayers. Even if City workers were all 100% volunteer, the reserves would only exist because of taxpayers.

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Fred Duckels 2 years, 4 months ago

There will always be those who have money problems and are pushing for more, or are needing to find greener pastures. This also creates the situation where other employees find an opportunity to draft off of those in desparation. In my business I can't compete with government or large employers so I have to take those who can operate within my capabilities. Commanding a high reward means more that filling a slot.

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