Steamboat ending the year with extra funding, most of which is coming from lack of staff
The city of Steamboat Springs will end the year with about $4.5 million more than budgeted for with sales tax generating 18.7% more than anticipated.
City Finance Director Kim Weber said the extra money will go into the city’s reserves, also known as the “rainy day fund.”
Weber said that in addition to a boost in sales tax revenue, much of the city’s savings comes from a lack of staff, which led to fewer salaries and less projects being completed.
“Remember how many complaints we got on the medians? We just didn’t have enough staff to go out there and take care of them,” City Manager Gary Suiter told council members Tuesday. “We couldn’t even find contractors to do that until we got a referral from a councilwoman that finally found someone with a lawn mower who could come mow the medians.”
Suiter said the city’s problem is part of a nationwide phenomenon, which economists have called the “great resignation,” in which employees are re-evaluating their career paths and seeking remote or online jobs over service or face-to-face positions.
While he agreed that padding the city’s reserves is beneficial in the long run, he told council members he was concerned about an inability to recruit and retain staff — particularly police officers, Steamboat Springs Transit drivers and parks and recreation crew members.
In the case of bus drivers, Suiter said those who used to like interacting with tourists no longer enjoy the job, as it involves enforcing a federal mask mandate with visitors who may be coming from places where the law is not enforced.
For police officers, Suiter said national controversies leading to negative feelings about law enforcement have caused many Steamboat officers to leave the field altogether.
“There is a risk of burnout in multiple positions, and we do the best we can with trying to move people around, keep things interesting, give them kudos and let them know how much they’re appreciated,” Suiter said. “We probably need to do more of that.”
Suiter said the city is also working to conduct additional salary studies to ensure pay is competitive with other municipalities around the state.
“We need to compete with the Front Range, otherwise we become a training ground for people to leave here and go to work on the Front Range,” Suiter said.
Council member Michael Buccino, who owns an interior design business, also asked Suiter if the city could work to give its staff more pay bonuses, which he said is a good practice in his business.
“I just want to make sure you guys are looking at our city staff across the board and saying, ‘Thank you for what you did,’” Buccino said. “There has to be a new mechanism that I’m trying to get us all to think about, and that’s going to change the way we compensate staff.”
Buccino added that if staff are leaving due to low pay or burnout, their colleagues are left doing the job of multiple people and should be rewarded as such.
As the city prepares to end its year with more money than anticipated, it will also award $630,000 to various nonprofits through its annual Community Support program.
Nonprofits will have to apply under one of three coalitions — arts and entertainment, human resources and environmental.
The coalitions then review applications and conduct interviews with each nonprofit that applies for city funding and makes a grant recommendation to Weber, who then compiles the recommendations and takes them to City Council for final approval in December.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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