Employee pay to be a focus of upcoming Steamboat Springs budget hearings

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— The Steamboat Springs City Council again is poised to weigh some significant changes to the city's employee pay scale in the upcoming budget season.

As they got a first glance at the 2014 budget Tuesday night, council members indicated the city's proposed market-rate pay raises and a proposal to have city employees pay part of their health insurance plans for the first time will be big topics of discussion when budget hearings start Oct. 1.

Council member Kenny Reisman said he wants to have a “citywide conversation” about the plans to move some employees back to a 40-hour workweek and grant market pay raises to several employees for the first time in years.

“It's a hard one to have, but it's pretty helpful to have,” he said.

The discussions will come a year after a comprehensive employee pay raise plan was passed over by the council after former City Manager Jon Roberts said it could be unsustainable in the long run.

The city now wants to bring its parks, Howelsen Hill and trails staff back to 40 hours per week along with some other employees.

Much of the recreation staff and administrative staff would stay at four-day workweeks.

As it works to better compensate employees who have gone years without pay raises, the city also is working to curb the rising cost of health insurance.

Council member Sonja Macys said she had concerns about the city's plans this budget season to mitigate the rising cost of health insurance by raising deductibles and having city employees pay for part of their plans for the first time.

The city budgeted to spend about $2.4 million on health care in 2013, a 3 percent increase compared with 2012.

“If you're going to be looking at charging employees more (for health insurance), I'd like to know how that affects people at lower incomes,” Macys said. “I think it's going to hurt people disproportionately, and I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that.”

Other budget highlights include about $1 million of deferred maintenance, an additional engineer to help keep up with storm water infrastructure and a $1 million transfer to the city's capital projects fund.

City officials stressed the budget they showed council was preliminary and subject to change before a more detailed version is presented Oct. 1.

City Manager Deb Hinsvark also reported the city currently is better off in its budgeting process this year than it was at the same time last year.

City staff is working to close a $325,000 shortfall in the current draft compared with a $942,000 shortfall last year.

In other action

Tuesday's meeting was a long one, and council took a number of significant actions, including:

• Directing the city to dedicate $6,200 from its economic development fund to help create a new Steamboat Springs Energy Productivity fund. The fund could be used on “communitywide residential and commercial projects” that focus on reducing energy costs.

• Approving the second and final reading of the city's ordinance that will regulate the use and sale of recreational marijuana.

• Coming to a compromise with developer Tom Fox regarding the vesting period for the Sunlight Subdivision he plans to develop near the Steamboat Springs Cemetery. Citing a still shaky economy and the project's isolation from other development, Fox was requesting a 10-year vesting period for the project.

He said it was unique in that it is being built to attract blue-collar workers.

The city's planning commission approved a six-year vesting period with a possible four-year extension.

After a lengthy discussion Tuesday, the City Council agreed to offer the project a seven-year vesting period with a possible three-year extension.

Prior to the vote, Jim Stanko, a member of the city's cemetery board, expressed some concern about the project's proximity to the cemetery and some drainage issues that already exist there.

Fox said he was working with the cemetery board to address and mitigate those concerns.

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

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Comments

jerry carlton 1 year, 2 months ago

I worked 51 years at approximately 12 companies and never once had my health insurance 100% paid.

1

Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

Market rate is a good idea, but it should be market rate and not some contrived study designed to give city administrative staff more money.

Real market rate includes looking at what the private market is paying for jobs and including the value of 100% healthcare and so on. The private market is eliminating administrative jobs far faster than government and pushing productivity.

The general problem with government is that there is very little pressure to be efficient and effective. A private company run poorly goes bankrupt. A government run poorly just gets less done.

If government was like private industry and their customers, the voters, each year could decide how much to pay by a ballot measure setting that year's taxes then government would be radically more efficient.

1

mark hartless 1 year, 2 months ago

Scott... dude... you're on a roll.

Are you SURE you're not a libertarian??

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

I generally consider myself to be libertarian. I just think that government can provide services that are a natural monopoly such as roads and police better than individuals. And that providing a minimum level of living conditions for children and the disabled is like a natural monopoly because the free market system would have the incentive to avoid helping those in need.

I just think that as part of society that there is a minimum level of poverty for those without the means to control their circumstances.

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mark hartless 1 year, 2 months ago

Ahhh,

You were sooooo close... right up to that "those without the means to control their circumstances" crap.

My father was born into the great depression; he ate groundhogs, possums, etc when he was a kid. He had NO "means" but he "controlled his circumstances". He will die a hillbilly millionaire that never finished high school.

The idea that circumstances detirmine destiny, or that riches equate to enlightenment is highly offensive to me, and to others that worked like puttin out fire to get what we have.

Sure government "can provide..." But it can only do so at the expense of others who were on the verge of independantly overcomming adversity.

Take that victory from them and one never knows what might have been.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

It is not denying victory for some to have minimum living standards/ Peyton Manning is not being denied success by government assistance to a disabled person.

A rich kid's family being taxed so that the poor kid can get a minimal education does not leave the rich kid blocked from getting a good education.

The disabled person getting government aid is not stopping the poor kid from going to school.

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John Fielding 1 year, 2 months ago

The "citywide discussion " is a good concept, we should implement it more frequently. We certainly should have it ongoing now about the police station, not being kept in the dark for weeks.

This city has an exceptionally high percentage of its citizens who are well informed and willing to participate. So many in fact that it becomes a little unwieldy at times, remember the 700? On the whole that is a great thing for the community. Lets keep them engaged, not excluded.

I predict the decision to keep the alternate sites secret while proposals are developed will have a negative effect in the relationship between the citizens and the government. Our intermediary, the press should be pursuing this diligently. Can we have a reporter interview the appropriate city staff members and present their justifications in print to the citizens?

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John Fielding 1 year, 2 months ago

Back to the topic of the article, the health plans offered to city employees should be tailored to their needs. Some will no doubt prefer something comprehensive, like a HMO. Others certainly would prefer catastrophic coverage only, especially if they maintain their health by diet, exercise, holistic practices and home remedies. The costs of the different plans will be substantial, and should be reflected in the contribution required. In effect that will leave the alternative medicine group the funds to pay for their health care providers whose services are not covered by the comprehensive plans.

But we may not have the option to offer a range of coverages. I am not familiar with all the ramifications of the affordable care act but I hear coverages will be standardized to some degree. Does anyone out there know if we are allowed to offer a choice in insurance plans.

At this point we are all in the same boat, public employees or private, Health insurance is way more expensive than a few years ago. No one can expect their employer to cover the entire increase.

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