The town of Snowmass Village is budgeting for pay increases and two new positions in 2014.
Over the past four years, the town has not budgeted raises, but some were given during the course of the year — after a financially healthy winter, for instance. In May, the Town Council approved a merit pool of as much as 5 percent for the second half of this year after high sales tax revenues during the ski season.
Although officials will take two votes to approve the 2014 and revised 2013 budgets at meetings later this year, they agreed Wednesday to budget a merit pool at the same rate for next year. They also approved two new positions proposed by the Police and Recreation departments, respectively.
Police Chief Art Smythe requested increasing a part-time administrative position to full time, saying that as the economy begins to grow again in the village, so does human activity, which means more demands on his department. Officers need to be available for managing traffic for construction and also as security at special events.
The full-time position will cost $41,000.
“I would certainly be in favor of funding this,” Councilman Fred Kucker said.
The new position is part of the chief’s strategy to rebuild the police staff after cuts were made during the recession, he said. He also would like to add a full-time officer, maybe next year, particularly if the second phase of the Viceroy hotel and a new hotel owned by Aspen Skiing Co. start construction next spring.
“If they start breaking ground next summer on both of those projects, we need to get that up and running sooner than later,” Kucker said.
Police academies only offer training a couple of times a year, said Boineau, who voiced concern that if the town waited, a new hire wouldn’t be able to start in a timely manner.
Smythe, however, was confident his staff could handle the workload in the interim.
“As long as everyone stays healthy, ... we should be fine through this winter season,” he said.
The other position added was an irrigation specialist. The town won’t save any money by switching to a seasonal employee from contract work. However, by reducing the cost of the contract work and assuming the new hire will monitor and reduce water usage, Recreation Director Andy Worline said the net cost of adding the employee will be $169.
Marketing and group sales
The council also approved a contribution to the joint offering made to attract Delta Air Lines back to the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport but not with unanimous support.
The Marketing, Special Events and Group Sales Board, an advisory body, approved contributing $150,000 in town money to the incentive package, to which Pitkin County, Aspen, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association and Skico also committed funds.
Councilman Chris Jacobson asked board Chairman Robert Sinko to explain the importance of having the airline fly into Aspen. Jacobson said he would prefer that the town consider other alternatives and wasn’t comfortable with subsidizing transportation without any price controls in place.
Sinko explained that the money was specifically committed to the airline’s efforts to market and advertise the flights to Aspen from Atlanta and Minneapolis. Marketing Director Beth Albert added that it also helps with the cost of starting up in a new market.
“We do not perform well as a one-airline town,” Albert said. “Competition is good. It brings lower rates without having to subsidize anything.”
Delta already is booking more reservations for those flights than American Airlines did when local entities gave it a similar incentive, Albert said.
“I don’t see us giving $50,000” to a local startup, Jacobson said. “I don’t support it.”
The council voted 4-1 to add the contribution to the 2014 budget.
The Parks, Recreation and Trails Department also proposed increasing the cost of recreation-center memberships in order to increase revenue. The real estate transfer tax fund, which supports recreation in the village, has seen revenue drop in recent years.
Memberships haven’t increased since the Snowmass Recreation Center opened in 2007, and most members have expected a hike for some time, Worline said.
Council members agreed that membership costs should increase by 10 percent in 2014. That means a yearlong adult membership will cost $60 a month. Worline also proposed changing the pay structure for fitness classes so that members can pay $80 a month for a membership and unlimited access to classes.
“We still think $60 is a great deal,” he said.