Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighter Devin Borvansky sprays water on a small grass fire on the west end of Steamboat Springs in May. Steamboat’s firefighters will be the second-largest beneficiary of pay raises approved Tuesday by Steamboat Spring City Council.

Photo by Scott Franz

Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighter Devin Borvansky sprays water on a small grass fire on the west end of Steamboat Springs in May. Steamboat’s firefighters will be the second-largest beneficiary of pay raises approved Tuesday by Steamboat Spring City Council.

Steamboat officials push for pay raises, claim employees are underpaid

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By the numbers

How approved compression raises would be dispersed (percents rounded):

■ Transit: 24 percent

■ Fire: 21 percent

■ Parks and recreation: 20 percent

■ Police: 14 percent

■ Public works (excluding transit): 12 percent

■ General service: 4 percent

■ Legal: 2 percent

■ City manager office: 2 percent

■ Finance: 1 percent

■ Planning: 1 percent

— City of Steamboat Springs officials say they are working to solve a morale problem.

Predicting an end to a painful recession, city officials Tuesday night said it was time to award employees with raises for the first time in four years and to resolve major pay discrepancies.

The request stemmed from a salary survey that claimed many city employees are underpaid.

Several members of the Steamboat Springs City Council were skeptical of the city’s proposal to correct the problem by spending more than $1.5 million each year on raises in a time of economic uncertainty.

“It’s a big number that is going to eat us before we know it’s hungry,” Cari Hermacinski said about the price tag for the raises.

Hermacinski said a challenging winter season, a lack of development in the community and an ongoing fiscal crisis in Europe combine to create a shaky economic outlook for Steamboat.

Council member Kenny Reisman said the cost of the proposal “scared him as an elected official.”

The proposed pay-raise package is twofold. The city is seeking to resolve compression, a pay discrepancy that arises when the city’s new hires are earning as much as veteran employees, at a cost of $700,000 per year. It also is seeking to bring all city employees up to market value, which was determined by the salary survey of 10 Colorado cities comparable to Steamboat, at a cost of about $800,000 if approved this year — a number the city estimated would grow by $300,000 each year.

A large group of city employees attended the lengthy discussion in Citizens Hall on Tuesday night, and a slim majority of the council decided it was time to start implementing at least part of the pay-raise plan.

The council voted, 4-3, with President Bart Kounovsky and members Scott Myller and Hermacinski dissenting, to spend $1.05 million throughout the next 18 months to resolve the compression portion of the raise plan.

“It was a great step,” Finance Director Kim Weber said Thursday. “We’re very happy with council acknowledging that this was something that should be dealt with.”

Weber said she will ask the City Council at its July 3 meeting to pay the first $350,000 of the compression raises in the second half of this year with excess sales tax revenue. The $700,000 annual cost of the compression raises also is expected to be paid for by gains in sales tax revenue.

Through April, Weber said, the city collected $800,000 more in sales taxes than it budgeted.

A morale problem

Anne Small, the city’s director of general services, said compression has plagued city workers for years.

“When you are being paid at the same rate after three to four years as someone who just walked in the door, it’s a little demoralizing to feel that you are not valued given what you’ve given over the past number of years,” she said. “It dis-incentivizes people from doing a good job.”

As a result of council’s vote Tuesday, Small said, about 70 percent of the city’s more than 200 full-time employees who are not seasonal will see an annual pay increase ranging from $100 to $12,000. She said city staff still was working to calculate how much of an increase each qualified employee will receive based on the number of years the employee worked for the city without a raise.

But what is clear is the city’s largest departments will see the largest gains.

Transit workers, including bus drivers and mechanics, will receive 24 percent of the raises. Firefighters, parks and recreation employees and police follow with 21, 20 and 14 percent of the compression salary increases, respectively.

The raises will not apply to the city’s management team or director positions.

But as they celebrate the approval of the first part of the plan, city officials are working to secure more raises.

Small and Weber will approach City Council on July 3 to pursue the second part of the pay-increase plan, which would bring all city employees up to market value.

“It’s an important part, and I think we do still want that to get looked at,” Weber said about the market value part of the pay-raise plan.

Making it sustainable

City officials said Thursday that the long-term sustainability of the salary proposal is dependent on an improved economy.

Weber said she’s confident the plan could be supported with current revenues at least until 2017. But then, it will need some help.

“In the short term, we have the finances to support this, and it is a reasonable plan,” she said. “In the long term, to sustain this we need to make structural changes.”

She said that would mean finding additional revenue outside sales taxes or reducing services.

“I’m not asking for operations or personnel (costs) to come out of reserves,” she said. “I think we can fund this for the next five years out of current revenues, not out of reserves, as long as we could pay for capital projects and the Iron Horse debt out of reserves.”

Weber and Small said pay raises were important for sustaining employee morale. They noted that since November, eight city employees have left to obtain higher-paying jobs.

“We’re very concerned about that escalation of attrition for those folks who are looking at a higher salary,” Small said. “It’s a leakage of our skilled employees.”

She predicted the pay-raise plan would lead to less attrition.

If the city’s entire plan is adopted, Small said, 23 employees would see no salary increase, 11 would see an increase of less than $900, 22 would see a raise of between $1,000 and $2,000, 45 would see a raise of between $2,000 and $5,000, 64 would see a raise of between $5,000 and $10,000 and 38 would see an increase greater than $10,000.

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

Comments

Scott Wedel 2 years, 6 months ago

If the problem is that new employees were paid as much as veteran employees then the City's HR dept should be fired for gross incompetence. It has been 4 years since there was the slightest challenge in finding new employees and yet there IS STILL A PROBLEM OF NEW HIRES BEING PAID THE SAME AS VETERAN EMPLOYEES????? And now the solution costs a million dollars or so a year!!! What went so wrong?

You have got to be kidding. Problem should have been solved by now. And solution should have been to lower starting salaries after 2008 and tell those hired in 2007 and early 2008 that they were hired during a boom and be thankful you are not being laid off or that your salary is not being cut.

Where is the evidence that employees are leaving at an excessive rate and that city has the slightest problem finding replacements?

The job market is still very soft and how out of touch is City government to propose that 92 employees will receive a pay raise of more than $5,000?

How about a mental exercise of letting every employee go and then have an open competition for every job? How many city employees would find there is someone else highly qualified willing to do their job for the current pay scale?

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Fred Duckels 2 years, 6 months ago

This out of whack pay scale should not become the taxpayers problem to solve by putting a smile on every face. How in hell did we get to this point, who is responsible? I have skilled employees that are amazed by the pay of city employees with less skill. In years past the city sent out a salary survey to the community to determine pay scales. This soon was abandoned and the practice of municipalities swapping data became a mutually beneficial tool to sell the public on pay.

Yes times are tough but the door is wide open in the private sector for those capable of producing bang for the buck. I have been looking for an another estimator for years but I will not hire just to fill the slot.

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cindy constantine 2 years, 6 months ago

Also, most discouraging, is the fact that most of the jobs (other than police and firefighters) could be done better and more efficiently by the private sector where contractors and companies could bid for the work. Do we really need a finance department when there are plenty of accounting firms which could be bonded and collect the sales taxes and do the reporting? Couldn't Parks and Rec's function be better handled by the many landscaping/snowplowing contractors who could get the job done? What keeps jobs efficient and productive is the bidding process handled by the private sector--on a small scale our City is what is wrong with all government jobs. What we need at the City are a few oversight employees to manage the contracts of private contractors which will do a good job without morale problems.

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cindy constantine 2 years, 6 months ago

At the same time that the pay raises go into effect, HR better be looking at the benefits package and having the employees contribute to those benefits. At least get the annual health insurance premium down!

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 6 months ago

And based upon the planned raises, there are only 23 current employees comparatively overpaid and thus not receiving pay raises. That is a less than 15% of city staff.

Thus, the "solution" to having less than 15% of staff being paid too much is to then give a pay raise to the remaining 85+%.

Fred, Are you suggesting that when Duckels Construction has job openings that you all are not simply hiring highly skilled and low paid city employees?

That would appear to be news to the city's HR dept.

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cindy constantine 2 years, 6 months ago

Somewhat ironic that below the article pushing pay raises for the city workers is an article about Routt county families receiving tools to help escape poverty. Wonder if those poor families feel "demoralized" by reading that annual pay increases for city govt workers will range from $100 to $12,000?

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mark hartless 2 years, 6 months ago

I disagree with the whole concept of senority pay. When someone draws a pay-check, they are, at that moment in time "compensated" for their work. PERIOD After that moment in time those employees are not obligated to show up even one more day. Likewise, taxpayers should carry no further obligation to raises, pay based on years employed, or any other factor.

In the real world, "pay day" is the final moment in the contract between employer and employee. So should it be in the world funded by taxpayers. In fact, if a new employee and an employee who has been around 5 years are doing the exact same job, it borders on discrimination to have different pay rates.

Consider a maintenance shop. Should a 3 year employee with 3 total years of experiance fixing automobiles be paid more than a new mechanic that comes from a 25 year background of mechanical work, and might have just left Dale Earnhardt Jr's pit crew??? Which one is more likely to have the most daily output?

And 8 employees out of 200 leaving in 7 or 8 months is hardly a crisis. The average construction company would probably LOVE to have that attrition rate. Not to mention all the sub-contract and commission type workers who's job is "terminated" quite frequently; for them, finding a new job or new employees is a way of life.

If a private company compansated 200 employees to such a degree that none ever left for greener pastures, they would be paying entirely too much.

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cindy constantine 2 years, 6 months ago

Mark--

As "Sledneck" used to so famously say----BAM!!

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 6 months ago

And if new revenue streams will be needed to pay for this going forward then it would make sense to link this pay raise to the new revenue stream. Thus, how about the city putting a property tax measure on the Nov ballot with the revenues promised to city employees pay raises?

There are probably a couple of hundred people that would vote for it.

Mark, So are you suggesting that an average of an employee a month leaving is not an issue? With a workforce of 200 that suggests that average seniority of 16 years. Are you suggesting an average of only 16 year seniority is not a problem? Surely, the goal must be average seniority of 25+ years so that anyone hired by the City stays working for the City until they retire.

I'm sure that is how Fred's company works. That he views it as a personal tragedy when anyone leaves. Thus when anyone leaves he then gives pay raises to everyone else so that no one else will ever consider working elsewhere or starting their own company.

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John St Pierre 2 years, 6 months ago

Just a few weeks ago the crisis was the Fire Dept cutting back on manning its equipement and the consolidation of SSF with other county Fire Depts.... just this mean the other Dept's will get raises also... and what does this increase in operating costs mean to the consolidation.... I would suspect this kills it....

What is the exact costs of this???????? Article states that this question could not be answed when it was asked and yet it was voted on.

How was it the City Employees knew about this being discussed at the meeting and the public did not or the PILOT making it public knowledge????????

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mark hartless 2 years, 6 months ago

Cindy, Thanks for the "BAM".

Scott, With 200 employees, having one/ month leave, especially in these economic times, is not a big deal at all. That's nothing. Isn't that about like a company with 20 employees having one resign every 10 months? Big deal.

Do you think those 7 employees are the only ones who think they can do better? Isn't that an opportunity for the City to improve on it's workforce? Are there not 20 applicants (or 50 or 100) waiting for every one of those 8 that quit?

If you can't look at a workforce of 200 and find 7 or 8 that you would like to see gone then you are not much of a manager.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 5 months ago

“I’m not asking for operations or personnel (costs) to come out of reserves,” she said. “I think we can fund this for the next five years out of current revenues, not out of reserves, as long as we could pay for capital projects and the Iron Horse debt out of reserves.”

Not asking for it to be paid out of reserves. It just means that now we have to fund other stuff from reserves. Or if it wasn't passed then they wouldn't have to take money from reserves.

Sort of like someone with a healthy diet and proper weight being told that eating all sorts of junk food won't make you fat. If you count the junk food calories first then it is the healthy food calories that makes you fat. Or you can try to stay at a healthy weight by cutting out the healthy food.

Only a complete idiot would accept that argument. And so it was accepted by a majority of SB City Council.

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rhys jones 2 years, 5 months ago

I am not up to date on this issue, or the voluminous discussion going on in this forum. I just thought it the best avenue over which to relate this possibly-relevant parable:

I was outside moments ago, nicotizing, admiring the work being done on 12th street -- those boys are kicking tail, no standing around there, and it's turning our right purdy. Despite my earlier penned doubts in this very paper.

Then I saw the prettiest bus go by, a purplish thing, big as a Greyhound, my recent chosen ride (and returning me HOME, Thank God for the joy!!) with cool stripes on the side, evoking said Greyhound -- been seeing a lot of that bus -- only then it dawned on me: THAT must be the YELLOW line. Huh. Leave it to the city to keep that diesel-hog humping the hills, passenger count in the single digits, while more efficient and smaller buses cruise the main line.

Would irresponsible spending thus illustrated possibly be a reason contributing to the current financial woes?

Please explain to me, Scott, or anybody within the vocal range of my pen who can: Did they figure out how to run that thing on a VW motor? Or does some curious grant allow us the privilege? I would so like to hear a reasonable explanation, to stoop me shaking my head. Or tell me I got it all wrong. Help me.

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rhys jones 2 years, 5 months ago

Suggestion: Make that bus an additional Craig line, only this ones goes TO Craig in the morning, and BACK again in the afternoon. There may be more than one commuter who would avail themselves of this option were it presented, resulting in untold fuel conservation just to begin with. Reduced traffic, many benefits could be cited.

The one time I had a real gig over there -- geek stuff, arrival time not critical -- and I had no driver's license -- I invested many would-be-paying hours by the side of the road with my thumb out and a "Craig" (Steamboat on the other side) sign, big letters -- watching the traffic go by, feeling like the scum I might well be (ha) but always an Angel stops, sooner or later. Whew, another night I won't sleep at Shop'n'Hop.

But the gig was still worth it -- I learned much in my tenure there.

I'm just saying, there are many facets to this murky picture, and I think the Boat-Craig crowd should have a voice here. Can I get a harrumph on that one!!

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jerry carlton 2 years, 5 months ago

Rhys Welcome back. Did you get any flounder in Houston?

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rhys jones 2 years, 5 months ago

Dang it Jerry I missed out on that one. Had to bus back, not there long back, prior obligations, convenient excuse to get the HELL out of Texas!! The piers were fun, only the bars were cool (I didn't hit Pier 27 too much, except in the latter days) my boat had no A/C, only two fans -- I would awake at 3 AM soaking in sweat -- GOD that heat is oppressive, a constant assault, muggy does not describe it, you can't sweat fast enough, the air doesn't want it either. That defines new horizons for this kid, and I'm a Phoenix and Yuma summer veteran too.

I hear it's been hot here lately -- HA!! Perpetrators of that belief have no concept of the implications of that word. Another -- deciding -- factor making me thank the Lord I am back in paradise, and Greyhound too, for good measure. What a trip, the stories I could tell.

One story I will tell is how you, Jerry, may have been the key to my future success. I overstate that not. You Da Man, Jerry, and here's why:

I was sitting around the boat sweltering one evening, plinking at this box, squabbling in the forums, having a good ol' time. Visiting home, it's like I was there. Here. Whatever.

You piped in and suggested the Thunder game; I responded I'd have to locate a TV. I found one at Pier 27 -- the sound on the monitor most visible, was five seconds behind every other monitor in the house -- thus the video was ahead -- a full five seconds (a lifetime in b-ball) so I got to hear the crowd response, almost knowing who might say what, eventually. It was great fun, and you'll be happy to hear that I only nursed two beers, the entire game. Proud of me, Jerry? But I digress.

Meanwhile in walks a stranger, pleasant looking fellow, honest features, your good friend in school. He sat two stools down and ordered a drink (not alcoholic) and bounced around the room a bit, talking to friends... eventually comes back. We soon get talking about computers. Funny, the same industry, construction, where he was more visual, me more technical. He started rattling off companies I was previously in contact with, most too big for this little dog. He knews places, he knew times, he even knew some of the same PEOPLE. I mean unprompted, no way could I feed him his line. This was more than cosmic, Jerry. This was EERIE!! We exchanged contact info, pledging to connect tomorrow and chat at more length. I waited a day, then called back. He lived in a nearby gated development, gave me the gate code (South Shore, some's version of paradise) and I pedaled Boyd's borrow street cruiser, slinny tires and all.

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rhys jones 2 years, 5 months ago

Oops -- musta bumped myself off. Had to view an email. Best news ever. Hang on.

I might digress that the streets and sidewalks of Kemah the resort town, are biker-friendly NOT AT ALL, winding, narrow, unlighted, irregular pavement, lotta drinking going on, incentive to risk the sidewalks where possible. Again, Boat locals don't know how good they've got it.

Anyway, I'll cut to the chase: Michael my new associate has big plans for us, LLC, I'm the tech guy. He says get a local company pad, my next objective. I'm puching keys for him and us, right here, for a great rate of pay. From my own Happy Spot. Soon the one of my choice. Lest this be BS -- we will soon know -- I finally found my Big Break, Jerry. I am an excellent judge of character, can smell BS a mile away. I detect not one ounce of deception or trickery, this guy seems to be a straight shooter, eerily knowing the right things... This could be BIG, Jerry. Will know soon. What have I got to lose, except my time? I hope I have worked in my last kitchen.

It's all due to You, Jerry. You got me there. Should this come to reality, I owe you the dinner of your choice, and bring a date.

Last digression: I was FINALLY able to reconnect with my Caregiver, upon my triumphant return. I am back in Meds now, and SO RELIEVED. They don't have mmj in Texas, ain't got a clue anyway, it was obscenely expensive, IF I'd had the motivation to chase it, which I DIDN'T, WHEW there too; I was Jonesing, not now in name only. That contributed to this fanciful tale, and you made it happen, Jerry.

YOU da Man, too!! Love ya, big guy!!

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 5 months ago

unsustainable employee benefits have consequences: Stockton California files for bankruptcy. Citizens of SB probably should recall the city council if they vote to approve raises financed from reserves that is known to be unsustainable.

http://www.torontosun.com/2012/06/27/california-city-to-file-for-bankruptcy

Rhys, It isn't clear to me what you are talking about.

The hybrid buses use regenerative braking to charge batteries when braking and then can use that reserve to use minimal fuel to accelerate or climb a hill. So they hybrid bus could be much more efficient on a hilly route than a normal bus.

And there can be other considerations such as a route than ends earlier so it is more efficient to use a bigger less efficient bus on a less traveled route since it'll be driven fewer miles that day. And run a smaller bus all day long on a busier route as long as ridership is low enough that it won't be overflowing.

The operations of SB transit seem pretty efficient and they probably knew what they were doing.

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rhys jones 2 years, 5 months ago

Jerry, I owe ya again, BIG TIME. Your Thunder suggestion led to great surprises. You Da Man too, Jerry. It's too rich to relate here. I owe ya, Buddy.

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jerry carlton 2 years, 5 months ago

Rhys The Lord works in mysterious ways. Hope it all works out for you.

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rhys jones 2 years, 5 months ago

Jerry you have NO IDEA how fortuitous your call was. If I'm to believe my lucky stars. my boat landed when I came ashore. Land Ho!!

My newest Angel is also a child of God, and not ashamed to admit it, though I smell not one iota of deception, no Bible-thumper, just a true believer in the word of Christ. He even allows me my unique Sethian beliefs within the framework -- who really knows, eh?

Praise the Lord, Buddy, this one's going to take more than one beer to tell. Even my recent legal entanglements play into the WEIRD set of circumstances which led to our quite-inadvertent meeting.

By the time the Thunder were going down, I barely noticed. YOU da Man, Jerry!!

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