Pay raises for employees approved by Steamboat City Council

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— The city of Steamboat Springs plans to spend $350,000 this year and an estimated $700,000 more every year after that to address what it calls major discrepancies in its employees’ pay.

The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night signed off on the raises that will compensate city employees who have worked here for multiple years but still are being paid as much as new, entry-level employees.

The vote came after a lengthy presentation of a salary survey that claimed many of the city’s 254 full-time employees are being underpaid, a malady that city officials said has caused some valuable employees to resign and take jobs in other Colorado cities that offer a higher rate of pay.

“We need to do something immediately before we start losing more people,” council member Sonja Macys said before she voted to support the pay raises. “I think we need to move forward with something today.”

A large group of city employees in the audience applauded the council’s decision to address the pay discrepancies.

City Manager Jon Roberts told the council that the time had come to reward the employees who have taken on more job responsibilities in the wake of downsizing.

He added that forecasted gains in sales tax revenue and the city’s reserve funds could pay for the salary increases.

“We have seen the drop in our sales tax revenue bottom out,” Roberts said. “The management team feels it is time to consider a salary adjustment for our employees.”

The City Council agreed that something had to be done to address the pay discrepancies that Director of General Services Director Anne Small said affects about 60 percent of the city’s employees.

She said the vote was merely the first step of a plan to better pay city employees.

“It’s a great start,” she said. “This is at least acknowledging that employees who have given their time to the city of Steamboat are valuable to the city, and we recognize that value.”

She said the raises would not apply to directors and members of the city’s management team.

But city employees didn’t get everything they were hoping for at Tuesday’s meeting.

The city proposed a compensation plan that would increase the salaries of those deemed to be underpaid up to a market value determined by comparing Steamboat’s pay grades with 10 similar cities.

To do that and address the pay discrepancies, Steamboat Finance Director Kim Weber estimated that the city would have to spend $1.5 million the first year of the plan’s implementation, and the price tag then would grow by $300,000 annually.

Several council members were wary of the package’s growing cost.

“I’d be really hesitant to pull the trigger on this,” council member Cari Hermacinski said, adding that the city’s financial outlook still isn’t glowing.

Council member Kenny Reisman agreed.

“To put (our reserves) back into salaries right now would defeat everything we’ve tried to do with our fiscal responsibility,” he said. “I’m not necessarily seeing the sunny side of the street yet for this community. I hope for it, but I just don’t see it at the moment. This salary plan is too quick for me. As someone who is placed to watch our dollars, to jump in and get that number at $1.5 million and bump it up $300,000 a year is something I’m not comfortable doing.”

He told city employees in the audience that “you’ve been told to be patient for a number of years, and the reality is you’re being told to be patient for a little while longer.”

The City Council agreed to revisit the salary survey at its July 3 meeting.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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