City of Aspen departments look to add positions in 2015 | AspenTimes.com

City of Aspen departments look to add positions in 2015

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

The Aspens Parks, Community Development and Engineering departments are all looking to add positions in 2015, totaling $519,860 in supplementary requests for the upcoming budget cycle.

Parks has requested to cut 10 part-time positions and add five full-time positions, including a ranger and four maintenance jobs, amounting to $184,000 in increased labor costs. Tom Rubel, director of parks and open space, noted that each of the part-time employees has been with the city between five and 10 years, and he said it's fair to offer full-time work with benefits. The city hasn't stated which five of the 10 part-time employees would move to full time.

Assistant City Manager Barry Crook said the Affordable Health Care Act has partly influenced labor decisions for 2015. Under the new act, those who work 30 hours or more are considered full-time employees for purposes of health care. The city has previously only offered benefits to those who work 40-plus hours a week.

"So there will be some small subset of employees who are less than full-time but who work between 30 and 40 hours who will be eligible to participate in health care," Crook said. "So what our decision is: If we're going to have to consider them as full-time employees for purposes of health care, should we increase their hours? I think some of that went into the proposals for some of the employees over there at Parks."

Community Development is requesting the addition of a second senior planner and a permit coordinator, amounting to $179,490 in increased labor costs. Director Chris Bendon said the reasoning behind the request is increased workload.

"It's getting busier and busier," he said. "In the Planning Department, just the sheer volume of cases: planner of the day requests, applications for the larger projects where we need a senior planner."

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Bendon also cited total building-permit valuation in 2014, which is outpacing 2013 by about 60 to 70 percent. Permit valuation is a metric used to determine total construction activity.

Engineering has requested the addition of a civil engineer as well as two seasonal construction mitigation officers for a total budget increase of $156,370. City Engineer Trish Aragon said that with increased construction activity in the downtown core and heightened concern from the community, the addition of more mitigation officers would help ensure that construction crews are in compliance. The civil engineer, Aragon said, would help Engineering turn around plan reviews in a timely manner.

"We're just responding to our customers' needs and our citizens' concerns," she said.

In its proposed 2015 budget, the city is looking at an overall 6.4 percent increase in total base and supplemental labor costs, increasing from 283.1 full-time employees in 2014 to 295.4 full-time employees for the upcoming year. The total change in cost is about $1.8 million, from $29.2 million in 2014 to $31 million in 2015.

The budget discussion continues with the Aspen City Council on Tuesday during a work session at City Hall.

herk@aspentimes.com