Our View: Raises, reserves and reservations


Editorial Board, August through January 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Shannon Lukens, community representative
  • Scott Ford, community representative

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A still-shaky economy and a significant price tag that would necessitate reserve spending should keep the Steamboat Springs City Council from approving the second phase of proposed pay increases for city staff.

The first phase, intended to resolve compression, passed by a narrow 4-3 council vote last week. It will cost the city $700,000 each year to resolve the pay discrepancies that arise when new hires earn as much as veteran employees.

The second phase, which will be pitched to the council next week, seeks to bring pay for all city employees up to market value as determined by a salary survey of 10 Colorado cities comparable to Steamboat. The cost for the market-rate raises would be $800,000 for the first year, a figure that would grow by $300,000 each subsequent year.

We share the concern of last week’s three dissenting City Council members — President Bart Kounovsky and members Scott Myller and Cari Hermacinski — that spending a total of $1.5 million or more each year on employee raises is too daunting during a period of continuing economic uncertainty.

City officials already have acknowledged that the long-term sustainability of the salary increases is dependent on an improved economy. And although Finance Director Kim Weber expressed confidence the first and second phases could be supported with current city revenues through 2016, it would be accomplished through increased reserve spending. Funding the increased salaries in 2017 and beyond would be dependent upon new revenue sources or a reduction in city services.

We’re supportive of paying employees what they’re worth, and we understand the impact several years of wage freezes can have on staff morale and attrition. But we strongly think that pay increases must be done in a thoughtful and sustainable manner. We’re just not yet convinced the proposal put forth by city management is appropriate given the very real economic uncertainties that continue to plague the city and the rest of the nation.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 10 months ago

Well, how about deciding to make the raises cost neutral? If they think they need to pay employees that much more then they have to lay off enough employees to reduce the overall costs.

Or put the needed tax increase on the Nov ballot and let locals decide if they want the tax increases needed to pay for the raises.

Might as well make the hard choices of job losses now so they can decide how much raises are needed if the ultimate consequence is going to be layoffs (or tax increases).


Steve Lewis 4 years, 10 months ago

The conservative approach to staffing costs since the crash has served us well. At the same time its difficult to second guess personnel issues from the simplicity of these given metrics of peer wage comparisons. Where is our city manager in this discussion? This is his job, representing his team's performance and needs.

The question cannot be adequately answered by surveying what is paid elsewhere. City council, through the city manager, should understand the demand on its staff and the productivity of its staff. The U.S. economy is producing a GDP of earlier years with 5 million fewer workers. Is productivity demonstrably up at the city? I suspect so, and that should be in their argument. Is this sustainable? Make that case too.

We have heard another city need is for department office space. Meanwhile Fridays-off are surveyed as popular with city employees. Isn't this an inefficient use of the city offices? Some departments complain they have staff that working in closets, while on Friday we have most city offices empty.

I'm generally supportive of government functions, but at the same time let's recognize there are bigger issues than "city peer wage compression". We are all in this together, in my opinion. With only a survey of other cities founding this move, you may improve moral at the cost of community support - how many in the Steamboat private sector are making what they were making 4 years ago?

As a counter to that sentiment, make the case that our city's workload is more consistent and stable that of our private sector. Make the case that you are serving a larger population. Show us your productivity is up.


cindy constantine 4 years, 10 months ago

Here is a comparison for you---store/restaurant owners keep open hours of 10 to 12 hours per day 7 days a week to generate income to pay for their expenses and to hopefully make a living while at the same time generating sales taxes to keep the city running and providing pay increases for city employees working less that 40 hours per week. What if all the store owners decided to lay off most of their staffs and keep the same work week as the city workers. What would happen to the sales tax revenue then??? I understand this is not an apples to apples comparison but I would dare anyone at the city offices to have the business community figure out the hourly wage of the individual owners. Much less than minimum wage I guarantee you and no benefits either.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 10 months ago

"At the same time its difficult to second guess personnel issues from the simplicity of these given metrics of peer wage comparisons."

It is extremely easy to second guess the metrics of peer wage comparisons because the studies are designed to cook the books for a pay raise. SB can compare to other cities and justify a pay raise. Other cities can compare their salaries to SB and justify a pay raise. The key is the various adjustments they decide to include in the study.

Personally, I don't care if city staff is working hard or has increased productivity. In the real world that is supposed to be their job and does not get guaranteed raises. Has the city had the slightest problem filling empty positions? Has the quality of job applicants declined?

And no long term plan to pay for the raises. Iron Horse fiasco at least had an end date of when the debt gets paid off. These pay hikes are thus worse than Iron Horse because they know it is unsustainable and yet they proceed.


Fred Duckels 4 years, 10 months ago

Morale has more factors than pay. I do not see how I could drive a basically empty bus around and keep my spirits up. It would take mucho bucks to justify this compromise.


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