The town of Basalt will spend $121,795 more on staff wages in 2014 than this year after an independent consultant found that some employees were underpaid compared with similar private- and public-sector positions in Colorado.
The study by the Mountain States Employers’ Council found pay lacking the most for police officers, according to Town Manager Mike Scanlon. The department has 10 positions. Scanlon wants to add two officers because prior studies have shown the department understaffed.
The Public Safety Department’s budget for wages will increase by $58,629. Wages for administration will increase by $37,042. Wages for Public Works will increase by $15,504.
Wages overall will increase by 4.8 percent in the 2014 budget over 2013, Scanlon said.
The Mountain States Employers’ Council used data from three surveys to set a range for positions and compare the wages for Basalt employees. It determined that three of the 30 town staffers were at the maximum or above of the pay range for their positions, while five employees were below the minimum of their pay range.
Scanlon said he suspected soon after he took his position about a year ago that beginning police officers were underpaid. There is high turnover among officers with less than two years of experience, he said. That’s due, in large part, to the pay they receive, according to Scanlon.
He outlined a four-part strategy to the council for adjusting the pay of employees based on the survey results.
“All employees below the minimum of their range will be increased to the bottom,” said a resolution passed by the Basalt Town Council. “In the case of the police department, where this problem is prevalent, there will also be a tenure increase granted for years of service.”
In addition, employees who meet two of three criteria — 20 years of service in their profession or with local government, at least 10 years with Basalt and a certificate or degree in their field — will have their pay increased to the midpoint of their range if it’s not already there.
Employees who have pay that exceeds the midpoint based on the criteria will still be eligible for a 2.6 percent increase, according to Scanlon’s plan. Employees who exceed the maximum pay of their range will still be eligible for a 2.6 percent increase divided between January and July.
The council passed the wage-increase plan by a 7-0 vote.
In other council action, the board voted 6-1 to approve a new plan for the Continuing Care Retirement Center to offset its affordable-housing obligations. The retirement community won’t have to provide housing or funds in lieu of housing. Instead, it has agreed to a real estate assessment that will be applied when units at the center are sold to retirees. The fee will be 2 percent of the transaction cost on sales of as much as $1 million and 3 percent on sales of more than $1 million.
Scanlon said the Aspen Valley Foundation won’t be paying up front for its affordable-housing obligations, but the assessment will provide an “ongoing source of revenue.” It will be applied to sales over the life of the project, he said.
The net effect of the assessment is it makes expensive units slightly more expensive. For example, if independent-living cottages go under contract for $1 million, the buyers will pay an extra $30,000 to the town’s affordable-housing pool of money.
Councilman Rob Leavitt objected to the proposal because he said the elderly people moving into the project were paying to offset the affordable-housing obligation rather than the developer.