Steamboat City Council expected to discuss employee pay raise plan again on Tuesday
October 28, 2013
Steamboat Springs — With two weeks to go until the Steamboat Springs City Council considers giving final approval to the city’s 2014 budget, the fate of the salary increases being proposed for city employees remains in limbo.
At recent meetings, council members have shown they have competing views of the raises that aim to ensure city employees here make a wage similar to what other government employees are making in cities comparable to Steamboat.
Some council members want the raises targeted more on departments that suffer from the most turnover, while others agree with the city’s management team that wants to bring the salaries of all of the city’s departments up to a more competitive market rate.
On Tuesday night, the council will weigh in on the raises once again when the budget is up for a first reading.
"You can recognize people are getting paid below market," Council Member Walter Magill said Monday.
He is supportive of the raises that are intended to better compensate veteran employees who are making comparable wages to new hires, but he thinks the $738,000 price tag of the salary and benefit increases this year is too high and should be scaled back.
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He said he is more willing to settle on a lower figure and have city staff determine how to best distribute the salary increases.
Council President Bart Kounovsky said he still was weighing the merits of the salary plan.
"I’m not quite sure the council is in alignment right now with what staff is proposing," he said. "I’m willing to continue to listen to what staff has to say."
In recent weeks, he and other council members have asked for more information on employee turnover rates to help guide their decision.
Kounovsky said the decision on the raises also has to take into account all aspects of employee compensation, including their health coverage and paid time-off plans.
"It’s clearly not just about the hourly wages or the wages employees make," he said.
When the city’s PTO plans were outlined on Oct. 1, some council members were surprised at how generous the plans were compared to what they perceived is more common in the private sector.
City Manager Deb Hinsvark has reacted to the back and forth between council members by reaffirming the city’s desire to better compensate its employees who are making less than their counterparts in nearby cities and who have sustained years of furloughs and frozen salaries.
Her management team’s pay plan has won some praise from Council Member Sonja Macys, who has said in previous meetings the city can better compensate its employees.
Macys said Monday it was time for the council to stop "getting into the weeds" and focusing on the pay rates of individual departments, and instead, develop a broader compensation policy.
She added it was important for the council members debating the current cost of the plan to remember all of the millions of dollars the city has saved in recent years "on the backs of its employees" through its furlough program.
"I’m hopeful the council will start focusing on a compensation policy that would drive these types of (salary) decisions and make it easier for the management to propose adjustments," Macys said.