Scott Ford

Born in Denver

Scott Ford 1 week ago on Steamboat City Council narrowly rejects proposal to restore $264,000 worth of pay raises for city employees

Good Morning Scott W – I believe several attempts to do local labor market assessments have been tried. The typical weakness of a local labor market comparable compensation study is who conducts the assessment and the scope of who and what is assessed. At the local level there is not the expertise to creditably cross reference job duties to job descriptions and compensation. Nor is there the expertise to assign a value to the benefits both tangible and intangible. Yampa Valley Data Partners dipped its toe into this water once when it did a “living wage” study. (Never again!) Although I am not typically a big fan of “studies” the $35,000 which will be paid to Mountain States Employer Council will be money well spent – when contrasted to the City’s $18 million annual employee compensation package. You bring up a very good point. For a number of job task within the City there does not seem to be a lack of local applicants for the job openings that occur. I think this is a very good thing because it allows the opportunity to select the most qualified candidate for the job. Simply put, the City does not have the challenge of sorting through a lot of “broken toys” to the same degree some local employers have. As you point out there are challenges associated with some positions such as seasonal bus drivers and funds have been allocated to help address this situation, however, it remains a challenge. For the 260 employees the employee turnover within the City is very similar to the turn-over rate seen for similar industry sectors. (Administrative Services, Professional & Technical and Finance. Etc.) That turnover rate is about 15%. In studies done from consulting firms which are paid really big bucks – the pay differential between position needs to be about 20% or more for the primary reason to be “pay” as the reason why an individual leaves a job. Although “pay” is often the stated as the reason – it is often really family situation, moving, working conditions and opportunity for advancement. “Pay” typically is pretty far down the list as the primary reason. The current City pay system is flawed because of the lack of a creditable “local labor market” comparison. Although relatively easy to do comparing City of Steamboat Springs pay structure to that of City of Durango or City of Glenwood Springs results in distortions that may or may not reflect the realities of the local labor market. The drive to have the salary structure for a majority of the jobs based on local labor market conditions is the way to go. This is going to be a big change. It is not going to be easy and it will take time to phase in. I will be paying close attention to this. Personally I am tired of guessing when we do not need to!! (Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow council members.)

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Scott Ford 1 week ago on Steamboat City Council narrowly rejects proposal to restore $264,000 worth of pay raises for city employees

Rhys – From my perspective we have a pretty good City Council so I would not vote them OUT. I have a great deal of respect for each of them. We do not always agree – and I view that is a good thing. Each of us have our issues that we are passionate about. Although it may appear we do not agree on a lot of things this a council of 7 that cares deeply about this place. One of the challenges I personally have s not to allow what I am personally passionate about get in the way of representing the 12,000+ folks that live in the City. This is easier said than done. I do my best to listen carefully, learn what I need to learn and to be reasonably accessible to whoever wants to speak with me. I have a couple of “coffee groups” I typically sit with a few times during the week that freely share with me what they think. It is surprising how often we do not agree but we get along. I enjoy the exchange that takes place.
My guiding philosophy while I am on Council in rank order are: Focus first and formost on what makes this a great place to live. (Great places to live are typically wonderful places to visit.) I do not chase sales tax dollars. I understand the importance of sales tax to the City, however, to do something simply because it generates sales tax can lead to all sorts of silly things. To the degree possible I will insist that we measure. Simply put, one measures what they want to improve.

I put this offer out there to anyone who reads/post on this “blog”. Feel free to ask me why I voted for or against something and if we did not agree why you think I was wrong. I learn through these types of exchanges and find them valuable. I have a good friend that recently told me that if I am not catching “flack” I am not close to the target. (Although I am a current member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow council members.)

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Scott Ford 1 week ago on Steamboat City Council narrowly rejects proposal to restore $264,000 worth of pay raises for city employees

Hi Michael – Great question. The City does not have a defined benefit plan with the exception of the Fire Fighters. The City does have something that is similar to a 401K. The City’s match to this plan is included in the total compensation package. Counted as well in compensation is a factor for the amount of Paid Time Off (PTO) an employee can be accruing. PTO in the context of the City is sick leave, family emergency, bereavement, and vacation. One of the changes that was done over the past couple of years is to cap the amount of PTO an employee can carry forward from one year to the next.
The City’s self-funds it health plan. The City wraps a stop loss insurance up to some specified limits to protect itself from a single or catastrophic claim as well as if expected overall claim cost exceed specified limit. The value of the health care benefit is not included in the compensation number. Employees pay $50 a month and if they wish to cover their family I think it cost them $200 month. The benefit plan is pretty standard 80/20 after a $600 deductible or $1,200 for a family. The plan does have some 1st dollar coverage for some preventive care.
The compensation Mountain States Employer Council will be doing for the City will look at the entire pay and benefit package from wages/salary; PTO and insurance by job classification. I am anxious for Mountain States Employer Council to get this local labor market study done. Right now there is too much guessing and way too many “I know” or “I feel” statements associated with this topic. I believe Mark Twain once said something like, “It is not what we don’t know that hurts us, it is what we know absolutely for sure that just is not true.” Although I am a current member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow City Council members.

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Scott Ford 1 week, 1 day ago on Pay raises for city employees draw scrutiny at Steamboat City Council budget hearing

Part II Imbedded in the existing employee pay structure is a reward for longevity and comparison to other mountain communities’ government entities salaries which is disguised as a cost of living adjustment. This is a deeply flawed employee pay system. With the help of Mountain States Employer Council we will be moving to a system that is local labor market based. The reality is that we are not going to have a new employee pay structure hashed out along with all the associated details until the 2015 budget.
All this means is that from my pragmatic perspective there are really only two options. A) Grant the request from the City Manager for the $464K and at least “fix/restore” the current pay structure – however flawed it is with the knowledge that next year a “local labor market” based system will be in place. B) Or, decide to reduce the $464K request by some amount based on a “feeling” it should be lower.
The current employee pay system is flawed. It is not the city employee’s fault that the current system is deeply flawed. A new employee pay system will be in place based on data and not feelings a year from now. On this issue we run the risk in the short term to be penny-wise and pound foolish. City Council told the City manager to “fix/restore” the pay structure as one of its goal in 2013. Council simply needs to follow through on what it told the City Manager it wanted to do. (Although I am a current member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by other council members.)

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Scott Ford 1 week, 1 day ago on Pay raises for city employees draw scrutiny at Steamboat City Council budget hearing

Hi Jim Kelly – I apologize for not responding to your questions sooner. To begin with I welcome questions about how I vote on an issue before City Council. In addition, my positions on an issue evolve over time. The only commitment I can make is that I will learn as much as I can and do my best to be pragmatic.

The topic about employee pay that is currently happening is essentially a repeat of the same question that was before City Council as it discussed the budget for 2014. Some background I think helps put the employee pay question into context.

Part I In 2008 when it was apparent that the national/local economy was going to be sliding into a serious recession, Cari and Louie sounded the alarm – which the City was going to have significant less sales tax collections. Thank goodness they had the foresight to ring this alarm bell.

As City Council discussed in late 2008 the 2009 budget the decision was made to reduce the City’s employee head count from 305 to about 260. In addition, the decision was to freeze the employee pay structure and cut the pay of the remaining employees by 10%. At the end of 2009 sales tax collections exceeded projections and the employees were given a “one-time” bonus. In 2010 the decision was not to give any raises and continue to freeze the employee pay structure. In light of the depth of the recession similar decisions were made in 2011, 2012 and 2013. In each of these frozen years – the employees did receive bonus if sales tax collections exceeded expenses. On an aggregate basis the bonus accounted for between 2 and 3 percent of wages/salary.
One of the goals the City Council had in 2013 was to “fix/restore” the employee pay structure that had been essentially frozen since 2008. In the proposed 2014 budget to “fix/restore” the City Manager indicated that $738K was needed. City Council, (my vote included) voted to reduce the $738K to $600K. How was the $600K arrived at? It was nothing more than a round number as close to a 20% reduction in what was originally requested based on a feeling that it should be something less. The reality is that the $138 difference ($738K-$600K) did not simply go away in the existing employee pay structure it was simply carried forward. Thus embedded in the request for $464K is the $138K.

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Scott Ford 1 week, 2 days ago on Steamboat City Council to decide whether old house on Yampa Street should be razed to make way for new park

I am having a similar feeling I had with my kids when we visited a toy store and a “shiny object” caught their eye and they wanted to spend all their money on that one item. The only difference from my perspective is that the “shiny object” is a very small parcel of property that offers only 125 feet of river front and .15 acres of green space at best. Essentially the 2A Yampa Street Committee wants to spend all their money on this “shiny object”. Will the addition of this relatively small pocket park enhance the Yampa Street experience to the point that it becomes a “motivator” for more folks to visit Steamboat Springs (summer and winter) and stay in paid lodging? Let’s not forget that is the goal of the Accommodation Tax monies. Without question, it will provide some additional river access that is next door to a pocket park that already provides river access.
In my mind the only way this must make sense in the eyes of the 2A Yampa Street Committee is the assumption that additional funds for Yampa Street will be forthcoming as a result of the passage of the BID and City Council’s approval of the Downtown Urban Renewal Authority (DURA) and use of Tax Increment Financing. In my mind both the BID and the DURA are not forgone conclusions. In the minds of others these both are done deals! I hesitate to override the “wishes” of a committee created by City Council with the sole purpose to decide how a portion of the 2A funds are to be used on Yampa Street. Why have the committee if their recommendations are ignored? That will be the conundrum that will be front and center in tonight’s discussion.

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not reflect those of my fellow members.)

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Scott Ford 3 weeks ago on Leaders of business improvement district address concerns at tax proposal meeting

Hi Steve and Scott W - Establishing the Downtown District of the Urban Renewal Authority and the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) are two separate matters. However, the discussion that took place during the September 2nd City Council meeting some City Council members essentially linked them in their discussions. They are not inseparably linked in my mind. (No formal action linking the two has taken place – only City Council conversation amongst itself.) I think that there is a valid concern that the maintenance cost associated with the proposed infrastructure improvements associated with the Downtown District of the URA is something that cannot be overlooked. The BID is seen as a funding source to off-set some of those costs.
The BID is proposing, if passed, that about 40% of the $175,000 raised by the new tax be used for General Maintenance and Beautification. The reality is that $75,000 is not going to go very far.
Members of the BID Board expressed their concern Monday evening, and rightly so, that a baseline of services the City is currently providing be clearly established. An agreement between the BID Board and the City would be negotiated to delineate maintenance responsibilities. The "devil" would be in the details. (Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by other City Council members.)

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Scott Ford 3 weeks, 1 day ago on Leaders of business improvement district address concerns at tax proposal meeting

Last night I went to the BID informational meeting. I came away from that meeting with very little confidence that the necessary efforts are being made by the BID Board to be sure as many folks who are eligible to vote in the BID election are aware they can vote. Perhaps more importantly those who subsequently learn they are eligible to vote are also aware that in order to get a ballot there are a series of hoops to jump through. I was very disappointed in how the BID Board responded to these questions. Essentially saying, “We will have to get back to you because we are still learning as well. Hopefully the paper will do an article.” To be having this type of discussion only 5 weeks away from the election is a sure formula for crazy making. The BID election is being conducted by a law firm in Denver. The process from my perspective is very complicated and different from what folks are familiar with. I do not understand that when locally the desire is to encourage broad participation in elections (same day voter registration) the BID Board seems to be going in the opposite direction by having a convoluted process that seemingly discourages eligible voter participation. (Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow council members.)

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Scott Ford 4 weeks ago on Jim and Gayle Dudley: Community support

Gayle and Jim – This is truly good news about Matt. The style and grace your family handled this very personal family medical crisis was inspirational. Your family is important and valued by all of us in Steamboat Springs. I am grateful to call you both friends. (Hope to see you at Burger Night sometime in the near future!)

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