Steamboat City Council to welcome new members, select president and tackle budget on Tuesday

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Tony Connell

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Scott Ford

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Bart Kounovsky

— The two newest members of the Steamboat Springs City Council will have to hit the ground running after they're sworn in Tuesday night.

At stake is city funding for a new police station in 2014 and $735,000 worth of salary and benefit adjustments for some city employees.

After new members Tony Connell and Scott Ford are seated, the council will first select a president and then work to pass a first reading of the city's 2014 budget.

Current Council President Bart Kounovsky said Monday he'd like to continue serving in the leadership role.

"I've enjoyed the few years of being the president, and obviously I think I do a good job at it," Kounovsky said. "If others on the council agree, then I'd like to continue."

He said he was looking forward to having two new voices come on and join the budget discussion that has been contentious at times.

"I think we have some major things facing us in the city, and I'm looking forward to the next couple of years with new members and the returning five," he said.

The new council on Tuesday night is expected to focus on two major budget items that have divided previous council members.

They will have to come to a consensus on a pay plan being proposed by the city worth $735,000 and also decide whether the city should budget $2.5 million next year for the planning and construction of a new police station.

A vote at the last council meeting to postpone the police station funding failed 3-4, but the addition of the two new council members could swing it in the other direction.

A lack of consensus on the pay plan, which seeks to bring the wages of employees up to a market rate, also prevented the passage of the first reading of the budget.

In a new memo to the council, City Manager Deb Hinsvark outlines the history behind the current pay proposal and requests that it be adopted as is.

She said it would bring the salaries of 129 employees up to a market wage and resolve some issues of veteran employees making a similar wage to new hires.

"This change throughout the organization is critical as we move forward in a more competitive job market and hope to attract and retain qualified employees," she wrote.

Council members also have been presented with new information on employee turnover in the city and a comparison of how city employees' paid time off plans stack up against some of the biggest private sector employers in town.

The council debate so far on the pay plan has had some members saying it is time to adopt the plan, while others think the price tag is too high or want the raises more targeted toward departments that suffer more turnover.

The pay plan would equal an average of $5,271 per employee, according to the city, but is not a global increase.

In lieu of raises in recent years, and since furloughs were implemented in 2009, the city has distributed varying amounts of bonuses to employees.

Since 2010, the bonus pool has ranged from $169,000 to $388,000 annually.

The manner in which bonuses have been distributed also has differed year-to-year, according to Finance Director Kim Weber.

In 2010 for example, $250,000 was awarded, and full-time employees received $1,150 each. The bonus pool was based on the amount the city had saved operationally in the year.

The next year, $388,000 in bonuses were given out, and employees received a 1 to 5 percent bonus based on their number of years of service.

The council must come to a consensus on the 2014 budget on Tuesday so a second and final reading can be passed next month.

Other agenda highlights:

Lodging tax next steps: Following the easy passage of Referendum 2A that dedicates the city's 1 percent lodging tax on trails and the Yampa Street Promenade for the next decade, the council on Tuesday will discuss how the funding should be distributed. The city is recommending a steering committee be formed to help distribute the funds.

Council President Kounovsky said Monday the council welcomes the opportunity to have all parties come to the table and help decide the next steps for distributing the funds on the projects.

Summer marketing recap: The Steamboat Chamber Resort Association will review outcomes of its 2013 summer marketing program and then outline its request for next year's marketing. The 2014 funding request includes $600,000 for summer marketing, $100,000 for special event funding, $15,000 for trade show marketing and $50,000 for group sales.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.

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