Editorial: City raises deserve close look | AspenTimes.com

Editorial: City raises deserve close look

There are a few ways to view the raises the city of Aspen is eyeing for some of its employees.

The upbeat view would be that the city should take care of its workers with merit increases and that, by doing so, it lessens the chance of employee turnover.

The dimmer view would be that wages have been flat in Colorado since 2000, so why should the money earned by hardworking taxpayers help fund raises for city staff?

There's also our view, which is that the Aspen City Council needs to scrutinize every last cent intended for pay hikes as part of its 2014 budget.

From 2006 to 2008, the city's merit-based pay hikes were as much as 8 percent. Even in the post-recession, in both 2012 and 2013, raises remained, but in the 3.5 to 4 percent range.

Meanwhile in August, the Economic Policy Institute reported that since 2000, the median hourly wage, adjusted for inflation, was down 1.7 percent in Colorado.

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In other words, raises are hard to come by in this day and age.

While we appreciate the fact that the city of Aspen wants to treat its employees financially well, we also wonder what type of message this sends to the local working stiffs who help pay for these raises but aren't receiving their own.

Whatever the city does, taxpayers need to know precisely how much money will be spent on these increases to salary packages. They also need to know which positions will be in line for a raise.

If these pending raises were a one-time deal, we'd be prone to offer our full support. But they're not — they've been repeated through the years, with only a few exceptions — so we encourage The Aspen City Council to take a cautious approach to these proposed raises rather than rubber-stamping them.