Steamboat city staff will see 3% pay raise
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Five members of Steamboat Springs City Council voted Tuesday to approve 3% raises for all city employees hired before April 11. Council member Sonja Macys was absent from the meeting, and council member Heather Sloop voted against the motion.
City Finance Director Kim Weber told council members the raises were necessary because the cost of living in Routt County has increased over the last year, as COVID-19 hit and people from larger cities flocked to smaller mountain towns.
Additionally, when COVID-19 hit in 2020, council adjusted its budget to reflect what they believed would be a drastic drop in tourism and sales tax. As part of that budget, city employees took a 10% salary cut and faced furloughs.
However, the city ended the year better than anticipated and brought city employees back to their normal hours later in the year. Weber said the proposed wage increase was both to compensate for increased cost of living and to make up for the negative employees dealt with earlier in the pandemic.
“With sales taxes coming in better than projected, we proposed using some of those reserves to fund a wage increase,” Weber said.
Sloop, the council member who voted against the measure, said she did so because many in the community are still struggling and did not receive raises.
“It’s not that I feel that our staff does not do a stellar job, ” Sloop said. “I have a hard time giving a cost of living increase in a pandemic area when we have people all over this community and all over this country who are not getting raises this year and who are barely sticking by.“
Sloop also said council should be careful with what little money it has, as it is still operating in reserves, and sales tax is not at its normal level.
“I believe that staff does a great job,” Sloop added. “But this is a time where we need to start pinching pennies and looking at the expenditures we pushed that were for the health, safety and welfare of our community.”
Other council members disagreed with Sloop and said staff members, many who have been tasked with enforcing COVID-19 rules and dealt with other hardships over the last year, deserved wages that matched Steamboat’s cost of living.
“I think we have the opportunity to not add to the economic problems that some are seeing,” council member Lisel Petis said. “For us to hold this money and not give it to staff would be like witholding their right to a wage that meets the cost of living here.”
Petis added the cost of living is expected to keep increasing, and the city should pay its staff competitive wages as to avoid turnover.
“I’ve been in numerous meetings over the last few weeks where people have talked about how it’s impossible to afford living in Steamboat,“ Petis said. ”That’s not going to get any better.“
Council President Jason Lacy said the wage increases will be a way to make up for the toll the furloughs and pay cuts took.
“For seven or eight months, we made a 10% cut on our staff and their pay, and that impacted them in a negative way for some time,” Lacy said. “When we were going through the unexpected time, and no one knew what this pandemic was going to look like, our staff really took it, so I think this is an important thing for us to do at this time.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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