Fewer perks for Aspen city workers | AspenTimes.com

Fewer perks for Aspen city workers

ASPEN – City of Aspen employees will find themselves next year with fewer benefits, no pay raise and likely added responsibilities in some departments.

The 263 full-time employees who will be employed in 2010 will receive $300 for their fitness and wellness benefit. Last year, it was $990, according to Alissa Farrell, the city’s human resources director.

Another benefit that has been eliminated is the “Over the Top Award,” which was designed for exceptional employees to receive a monetary reward of $50 to $150, dependent on their meritorious performance.

City employees’ salaries also will be frozen in 2010, as they were in 2009. In previous years, city employees enjoyed between 6 and 7 percent pay increases.

But government employees will likely still be given some perks in 2010, mostly as an incentive to do a good job and serve the public. The Aspen City Council will decide on employee benefits when it begins reviewing the 2010 budget next week.

City officials are proposing $503,300 in employee bonuses in 2010, while millions of dollars have been shaved in operational cuts and layoffs, according to Farrell.

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As the local economy continued to sputter, city officials in February froze all employee salaries, and eliminated or reduced some benefits and bonuses. Those personnel and benefit cuts amounted to about $1.4 million in savings.

More than $2.4 million in total cuts were made to the city’s 2009 general fund, which included eliminating or freezing 20 positions, with nine employee layoffs.

Then last week, the Aspen city government laid off 12 more employees and eliminated four other positions, shaving $1.36 million off its operating budget.

At the end of 2008, when city financiers were preparing for cuts to this year’s budget, a total of $637,731 was given out in employee bonuses through a variety of programs, according to city records.

City officials propose to keep in the 2010 budget the “Goals and Outcome Measures Bonus.” Employees will be eligible to receive up to $1,350 annually if they meet goals determined by teams in their respective departments.

The goals emulate those of the City Council, and are measured on fact-based results from the employee’s peers and the public in terms of customer service.

Farrell said that expense is proposed to be increased from 2009. Currently, employees can earn up to $1,000. City financiers are proposing a $350 increase for each employee in 2010.

In 2008, employees were able to earn up to $1,800 in the goals and outcome program.

That particular bonus program is highly revered by top city officials, who say it encourages people to make adjustments in how they operate – employees who might not otherwise make the effort unless they are rewarded monetarily.

“The goals and outcome program is very successful in meeting our customer service goals,” Farrell said.

City Manager Steve Barwick earlier this year told the Times that the 14-year-old program is the “public sector version of profit sharing,” and is one of the most productive incentives the city government has for its employees.

Also still being proposed are thousands of dollars given out in a number of other programs including “The ‘Lookin’ Good” reward program and the “Outstanding Employee Recognition” bonus.

The “Lookin’ Good” reward program enables employees to give each other $20 in recognition of doing outstanding work.

The “Outstanding Employee” bonuses come in increments of $500 and are awarded quarterly. A committee reviews which employees deserve the reward, and up to $2,000 can be given to groups for outstanding performance.

The “Safety” bonus program is currently being redesigned but will continue to be offered. It is given out to employees who go through training to reduce workplace accidents, or those who have avoided accidents during the year.

Farrell said the program is offered at a minimal expense to the city. The goal is to provide safety awareness and to minimize workers compensation costs, she added.

The city also plans to continue to offer a wellness program to promote health for employees, which includes a part-time wellness consultant and nutritionist, wellness lectures, and prevention-focused health insurance plans.

Farrell noted that through the wellness program, the city promotes lower health care costs, improved productivity and increased employee satisfaction.

There will be other minor changes to personnel benefits but since they haven’t been announced to employees, Farrell declined to elaborate.

The City Council will begin 2010 budget reviews starting Wednesday, Sept. 30.

csack@aspentimes.com