Garfield County pay increase is still up in the air | AspenTimes.com

Garfield County pay increase is still up in the air

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Garfield County employees still do not know whether they will be getting a 2 percent pay increase in the coming year, as the county commissioners continue to mull over the idea.

The commissioners met last week with the county’s human resources department to talk about the pay increase, which was written into the 2010 budget but which may be withheld if the commissioners decide it is too costly.

The county expects to employ a total of 500 people in 2010, according to budget documents – 478 full-time and 22 part-time.

The budget, which was approved earlier this month, projects that wages and benefits for all county employees will come to more than $36 million, out of total expenditures of more than $133 million.

According to human resources Director Katherine Ross, if the commissioners went ahead with the 2 percent pay hike for the county’s employees, it would cost the county approximately $425,000.

The raise, she indicated, could be added to the employees’ base pay or paid out as lump sums to each individual, similar to a bonus.

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In either of these options the raise, according to documents presented by Ross, would be strictly a percentage increase and not linked to the county’s performance-review criteria.

One difference between these two possibilities, Ross told the commissioners, is that the pay increase would be “ongoing” if it were added to the employees’ pay, meaning it would establish a new base-pay figure for each employee.

If it were paid as a bonus, then the base-pay figures would not rise, Ross said, and future wage decisions would be based on a pay schedule that would be essentially the same as it is for 2009.

Ross also presented other options, involving complicated formulas for calculating merit raises or lump-sum increases based on performance.

If county employees do not get the pay hike, it is possible the decision could prompt some workers to leave the county and seek other employment, County Manager Ed Green told the commissioners.

On the other hand, noted Commissioner John Martin, “It affects our position in the public eye every day,” in terms of whether taxpayers feel the county is spending public money responsibly or not, in light of the ongoing national recession.

Ross’ presentation included pay increase projections as calculated by the Mountain States Employers Council Western Slope, which surveys employers in the region and compiles likely average wage changes. According to the MSEC, current projections are that wages might rise by around 1.3 percent in Western Colorado for 2010.

None of the three commissioners gave any indication about how they felt regarding the pay question, and the matter will be before them again at the Dec. 21 regular meeting.

jcolson@postindependent.com