Basalt, RFTA workers due for raises | AspenTimes.com

Basalt, RFTA workers due for raises

BASALT – Employees of the town of Basalt will get a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment in the proposed budget for 2012 after they worked under a wage and salary freeze for three years.

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) also is proposing a budget that includes merit raises of up to 3 percent following wage freezes in 2010 and 2011.

They are the latest local governments planning to give employees raises after the lean recession years. Elsewhere:

• Aspen intends to give a 2 percent cost-of-living increase across the board. Wages and salaries have been frozen since February 2009.

• Pitkin County’s proposed budget includes a bonus for workers in mid-2012, if revenues meet projections. Employees won’t see an increase in their base pay. Wages were frozen in 2010 and 2011.

• Aspen Valley Hospital employees received an average pay increase of 2.4 percent in June.

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• The Aspen School District did not offer raises for the 2011-12 school year, but it did allow “educational credits” for teachers who earned them.

• The town of Carbondale’s proposed budget calls for a 2 percent cost-of-living pay increase for employees.

In Basalt, the cost-of-living increases will total about $60,000, according to finance director Judi Tippetts. In addition to going through 2009, 2010 and 2011 without raises, town workers had to take three furlough days in 2008 and six furlough days in 2009. The town also sliced the number of workers from 37 at the peak to 28 full-time equivalents now, Tippetts said.

Basalt’s proposed 2012 budget anticipates revenues of $5.34 million and expenditures of $4.74 million in the general fund. It plans to put nearly $600,000 into reserves.

There will be about $1.3 million less spending in 2012 than in 2011 because of fewer anticipated purchases with the open space sales tax, and less spent in the engineering department on project planning. The reduction in expenditures is about 21 percent.

Basalt anticipates sales tax revenues to be flat: “We felt it was better to be conservative with revenue projections than to overestimate,” Tippetts said.

RFTA’s merit increases will add about $192,000 to the budget, said CEO Dan Blankenship. The raises will be spread out over the year, when employee reviews are performed. Employees weren’t eligible for raises in 2010 or 2011.

“I think that morale has been surprisingly high despite the freeze,” Blankenship said.

RFTA workers, like everyone, have seen higher costs for gas and food erode their incomes. Nevertheless, RFTA workers realize that many private sector businesses and governments were forced to lay off workers or mandate furloughs, so they appreciated that they kept their jobs, according to Blankenship.

RFTA has between 180 and 190 full-time, year-round employees who will benefit from the merit raise. The number of workers swells to 250-260 during winters, but seasonal employees won’t be eligible for a raise.

RFTA’s proposed budget has $23.93 million in expenditures in 2012. Service levels and fares will remain the same under the proposal.

The bus agency is looking at drastically higher fuel costs and an increase of 12.3 percent, or $254,000, for employee health insurance. It’s trying to avoid passing higher insurance premium costs to workers, Blankenship said.

The agency intends to avoid dipping into reserves despite the increased costs. Sales tax revenues were higher than anticipated in 2011 and they are forecast to increase slightly in 2012, Blankenship said. Service contracts with the Aspen Skiing Co., Aspen and Glenwood Springs have also increased.

scondon@aspentimes.com