Routt County aims to boost starting wage to $20 an hour
Raises would be an attempt to fill vacant positions; most are at the Yampa Valley Regional Airport
Routt County commissioners signaled Monday, April 25, they would approve an increase to base pay for the lowest earning county employees — bumping the starting wage to $20 an hour for untipped workers.
County Human Resources Director Kathy Nelson recommended the move, saying there are a number of essential roles in the county going unfilled with wages that are no longer competitive.
“This is really what I call a stopgap measure,” said Routt County Manager Jay Harrington. “We’re having significant hiring issues at the airport.”
Commissioners are expected to approve the move Tuesday, April 26, as part of their consent agenda. It would raise the pay for tipped workers such as servers and bartenders at the airport to $14 an hour while pushing wages for roles like a janitor, guest services representative or line cook to $20 per hour.
“The idea that a community like ours, that we of all people would be paying wages that are, for lack of a better description, substandard, that’s not a position I am comfortable being in,” said Commissioner Tim Corrigan.
Kevin Booth, director of the Yampa Valley Regional Airport, hoped the change would help him better compete with restaurants and lodging entities in Steamboat Springs, many of which have pushed wages higher as they too struggle to hire low-wage workers.
Booth currently has six year-round positions that are vacant and another 10 seasonal positions he wasn’t able to fill during the busy winter flying season, which brought a record number of passengers to the airport.
“If they are going to pay $5 or $6 an hour more, the people we typically recruit in Craig and Hayden are going to make the drive to Steamboat,” Booth said. “I think this is a good first step to get them in the door.”
Routt County recently completed a salary survey that looked at what the county paid compared to others in similar positions across the state. In some areas, the county was paying as much as 20% less than other counties.
That resulted in pay increases for several positions including sheriff’s deputies, but Nelson said the survey didn’t have as much of an impact on roles on the lower end of the wage spectrum.
“We all go around town and see these hiring signs at sandwich shops where they are hiring people at $20 an hour,” Corrigan said. “Fast food restaurants and neighborhood convenience stores are (paying more). Certainly, our folks deserve to be paid at or above that level.”
Booth said one slight issue with making a change like this is that some positions might lack parity. For example, a lead cook and prep cook would both start at $20 once the pay changes are approved. Booth said this likely wouldn’t be an issue in the short term, but the county would need to eventually revisit the pay scales.
“There needs to be an incentive to be something more than a prep cook,” Booth said. “In the long term, we definitely need to factor that in to pay scales.“
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Agriculture, employee retention and diversity will share the spotlight at the 28th annual Economic Summit on Friday, May 20.