Glenwood Springs switches to a new merit based pay system |

Glenwood Springs switches to a new merit based pay system

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” While towns like Silt are laying people off amidst economic downturn, Glenwood Springs is giving its city employees raises.

But the amount will be less than traditional raises. The City Council voted 4-2 to implement a new merit-based pay system to reward the top performers in the city government. City councilors also voted unanimously to allow merit-based raises of up to 2 percent per employee, which would total around $195,467.

The 2 percent figure is less than the traditional 3 to 4 percent. City staff recommended a 4 percent increase in June. That came under scrutiny after sales tax revenues began to decline each month from 2007 figures starting in June. The merit raises are in addition to raises possible every other year based on a market assessment of pay at other cities. Such an adjustment is not happening for 2009.

The switch to the merit based system is designed to gear raises more toward excellence rather than just acceptable performance or length of employment.

“We just need to be cognizant of what’s going on in the country around us,” said City Councilor Russ Arensman, describing a former colleague who was out of work. “We’re all very fortunate to be employed, solvent, and not being foreclosed on.”

He said there’s still no sign of a bottom in the current economic downturn. Some other city councilors also agreed with his sentiment that it would be better to act conservatively now rather than having to lay people off later.

Councilor Dave Sturges and Mayor Bruce Christensen voted against the switch to merit-based pay. Councilor Dave Johnson was absent. Among the concerns about the switch were that possibly smaller or fewer raises could hurt employee morale, and that it can be difficult to be consistent between different supervisors in implementing a merit based pay system.

The City Council also voted unanimously to approve a two-year contract for city attorney Jan Shute with a raise from $98,800 a year to $100,800 per year.

City officials recently approved an $82.7 million 2009 budget with general fund revenues based on projections of a 2 percent increase in sales tax revenue next year. Spending wasn’t cut in the budget, but many items have been frozen at existing levels. Rather than any big cut backs, the budget will in many cases draw down cash reserves in various funds. But city officials say there’s plenty of reserves to carry the city through years of downturn and they’ll carefully monitor the economy and adjust the budget as needed.

Sales tax revenues, the largest source of income for the city, slowed down this year compared to amounts collected in 2007, but the overall year to date figure through October was still up one half a percent over the same period last year.

Contrasting Glenwood Springs, Silt said it was forced to layoff several staff positions.

Rifle said it doesn’t anticipate layoffs and it has been budgeting conservatively. The Aspen City Council said last month Aspen’s budget must project zero percent sales tax revenue growth instead of one or 2 percent. The Snowmass Village Town Council decided to cut its 2009 budget by 10 percent. Denver city staff is asking firefighters and law enforcement to accept a two percent pay cut. Garfield County commissioners, however, approved a budget with a 27 percent increase in capital spending.

The Glenwood Springs City Council vowed to consider applying bigger raises retroactively if the economy turns around next year.

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121

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