City to focus on employee hours, compensation

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— Steamboat Springs City Manager Deb Hinsvark told a group of about 20 senior citizens Monday that as city officials enter the autumn budget process, staff and the City Council will seek to restore employees in the Planning and Parks, Open Space and Recreation Services departments to 40-hour work weeks. At the same time, city officials hope to bring salaries of all city employees up to current market rates for their job descriptions.

“We hope we can support both in 2014,” Hinsvark said after sharing lunch with the group at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. “In the last four years, we haven’t been able to give any market-rate raises to our employees. We’ve done seven layoffs and canceled 30 positions that were vacant. We have not re-hired. And I doubt that we will re-hire. The higher priority is getting market adjustments for people who were working the last four years.”

Achieving its goals for returning some departments to 40-hour weeks and bumping salaries to make them competitive with other similar cities would cost about $1 million annually.

Hinsvark used her hour with the seniors to explain the fundamentals of city finances, and she fielded a number of pointed questions from her audience.

Old Town resident Belle Chotvacs told Hinsvark she would object to the city choosing the large parking structure at the Stockbridge Transit Center (next to the community center) as the site for a new police station.

“Do not put anything over on that parking lot,” Chotvacs said. “It was bad enough when (the community center) was put here. This was supposed to be a parking lot. I would suggest you do not entertain a thought of putting it over there.”

Hinsvark said she was open to studying what she called a much-needed police station “anywhere we don’t have to buy the land.”

“The city owns land in all kinds of places,” Hinsvark said. “It’s just amazing to me where we own a finger of that, or a sliver of that. We’re looking to see if there’s one piece that makes the most sense.”

Hinsvark told her audience that the fundamental relationship between the community and city government goes back to pioneer days.

“The city is the government you can really get your hands on,” Hinsvark said. “It’s as simple as four guys standing on Lincoln Avenue in 1900 saying, ‘If we pool our money maybe we can pave the street and get more people to stop and shop.’”

Of course, it always takes money to accomplish municipal goals, Hinsvark said, and 2008 marked the beginning of a significant decreases in sales tax revenues. Sales tax receipts took a 14 percent dive that year, and “it’s not back where it was at that point in time,” Hinsvark said.

So, as the city looks at the $6 million it added to reserve funds thanks to conservative budgeting in the last five years, it has decisions to make, Hinsvark said.

The City Council will be told during its meeting Tuesday night that the city’s finance staff is projecting a 3 percent increase in sales tax revenues in 2014.

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

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