Steamboat City Council to discuss budget, city manager
City officials working to secure raises for firefighters and paramedics in 2013 budget
September 3, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs city officials on Tuesday night will ask the City Council to find room in the 2013 budget for pay raises to firefighters and paramedics.
The city’s recent salary survey indicated those employees are the most underpaid when their salaries are compared to their counterparts working in several cities comparable to Steamboat. City officials estimate it will cost $192,717 annually to bring the salaries of those employees up to market value.
Deputy City Manager Deb Hinsvark said the raises will help the city retain staff members who are the most expensive to replace.
"It costs us on average $28,000 to rehire and retrain" a firefighter or a paramedic, Hinsvark said. "There’s an economic driver to go ahead and offer these raises. Our goal here is to protect our investment in our people."
When they pushed for pay raises for all of their employees in June, city officials said they were attempting to correct a morale problem harbored by years of frozen salaries.
Concerned about the sustainability of the salary increases, council decided to delay any decisions on the pay raise plan until they were deeper into the budget cycle. But city staff still is hoping to secure the raises they deem the most important.
City Manager Jon Roberts said last month he has heard from many employees, especially firefighters, who say they are considering taking higher-paying jobs in other communities if they don’t see pay increases.
"We hear from some of them pretty regularly (that) it’s possible for them to leave," Hinsvark said Monday.
She said that although the city does not want to limit the pay raises to just firefighters, they are the most immediate priority.
"When we look at (salaries) by profession, it’s the firefighters who are off the mark," she said.
City Council is scheduled to spend two hours at Tuesday’s meeting combing over the city’s preliminary budget proposal that also includes requests to next year spend an additional $163,732 on deferred maintenance projects; $283,511 in raises for a cost-of-living adjustment for employees; and $176,437 from the general fund on capital projects.
The city also will have to find some room in the budget for a $330,975 debt payment on the Iron Horse Inn.
All told, the expenditures in the draft currently exceed the city’s budgeted revenues by $942,000.
Hinsvark said city staff will look to the council to decide whether to balance the budget by reducing services or drawing from the city’s reserve funds.
She added the city will present council with a list of possible service reductions Tuesday night.
"It’s going to be interesting and helpful to hear where (council’s) priorities lie and what policy directions they want to provide us to help us finalize the budget," Hinsvark said.
At a meeting last month, council decided to start the budget process with a conservative mindset. Council members ultimately agreed to at least start the 2013 budget flat compared with the 2012 projected budget.
The 2012 projection is about 7 percent below the actual revenue the city has received to date.
After its budget workshop, council will turn its attention to laying out a set of goals for Roberts to accomplish in the next six months.
Roberts survived a contentious performance review in August that started when council member Walter Magill said he wanted the manager fired.
In the wake of that review, council decided to revisit Roberts’ job description Tuesday night and to provide him with a set of measurable goals.
Some of those goals council will consider giving Roberts include requests to have him maintain a presence at city hall five days each week, meet with local businesses each week and prove council a weekly report to council members about his prior weeks’ activities.
Roberts last month defended his management style and his connection to the community after at least three of his bosses expressed serious doubts about his leadership, the way he communicates with council members and city employees and his connection to the community.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, the council will:
■ Consider a conceptual development plan for a 74-unit condominium project at Burgess Creek Road and Storm Meadows. Ski Country LLC’s conceptual plan for the project was approved last week by Steamboat’s planning commission in a 5-2 vote. According to City Council’s agenda packet, the planning commission focused much of their discussion on fire and public safety concerns on Burgess Creek Road. The commission also heard some opposition to the project, including concerns from nearby property owners about the building’s height and size. If the plan is approved, developers will be able to apply for a final development plan.
■ Consider scaling back fire restrictions in Steamboat from Stage 2 to Stage 1. If approved by the council on second reading Tuesday night, first restrictions in city limits would be lessened beginning Sept. 14.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com