Some city workers in Steamboat could see pay raises

Officials to examine job reclassification

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— Planner Seth Lorson will leave his position with the city of Steamboat Springs on Friday after nearly four years to take a similar but higher-paying position in Fort Collins.

Lorson’s new job opportunity comes at a time when the city is beginning to take a close look at the expanded roles its employees have taken on during lean economic times.

Deputy City Manager Deb Hinsvark told her audience at the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association Business Outlook Breakfast on Wednesday that as city officials look ahead to the 2013 budget process, they are paying close attention to whether some employees’ roles have expanded to the point they deserve to have their jobs reclassified with a commensurate pay increase.

“One of the things we will really focus on in the coming year is to try to bring some equilibrium back to our pay plan,” Hinsvark said.

Since 2009, the number of people employed by the city has declined from 305 to 264 as the city has sought to control expenses in an era of reduced sales tax revenue.

“Sometimes, industry attributes this to balancing the budget on the back of employees,” Hinsvark said. “Our employees understand that we’re employee intensive. That’s our largest cost as a city, so when times get tough, we have to look to the personnel line and cut that personnel line to stay within budget.”

However, the city wants to know if its employees are simply being asked to do more work or are being asked to expand into roles that warrant a reclassification of their jobs and, potentially, greater compensation. An unpaid college intern is analyzing that very subject, Hinsvark said.

“She has been looking at peoples’ jobs, job description and what they are actually doing to determine if they have moved up into a new technical range and need to have their job reclassified.

“Everybody is used to doing X, and now they’re doing Y when they’re still being paid to do X,” Hinsvark said. “We’re all doing more, so you don’t get paid a different rate because you’re doing more.”

However, in the case of an employee whose job has changed in its nature, a pay raise could be considered.

“We’re looking at what market rates are now. Times are turning around. We don’t want to lose employees ... so we want to be sure we’re paying people the appropriate salary,” Hinsvark said.

Hinsvark said city administration also is sensitive to a circumstance she called a compression issue.

Hypothetically, she said, if the city hired an engineer who had not had a pay raise in his or her first three years on the job and then hired an additional engineer, the new employee would start at the same salary as the veteran colleague.

The city can contemplate giving raises in these circumstances because it has budgeted conservatively and sales tax revenue has exceeded those budgets, Hinsvark said. The 2011 budget anticipated $14.6 million in revenue, which was revised to $15.4 million at midyear and ended up at $17.4 million.

January marked the first time monthly sales tax receipts had declined in nine months, dipping 3.5 percent compared with January 2011. Hinsvark said she was hopeful that was an aberration related to a scarcity of natural snow on the ski mountain and doesn’t represent a trend for 2012.

City administration contemplated leaving Lorson’s planning position unfilled but decided against it, Hinsvark said.

“We had a lot of good discussions about whether we could go without a city planner, but no, we’re down to the nub there,” she said.

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

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