The Windsor Town Board began the process of reviewing employee salary levels at the board’s Monday work session and spent much of the time discussing whether or not it was useful to compare the town staff’s salaries to staff salaries at neighboring municipalities.
Mike Swallow, owner of Personnel Systems & Service in Salt Lake City, Utah, gave a presentation to the board about the different factors municipalities should consider when setting salaries.
He also outlined a study he will conduct of town employees, as well as a study of other municipalities’ pay scales and benefits packages, in order to give the board more data to make its decision.
“You’ll have some good tools at your finger tips to get some in-depth analysis and interpretive material,” he said.
Swallow asked the board if its past policy for employee compensation still rang true. The past policy states: “It is the policy of the town of Windsor to pay its employees at or above the prevailing rates paid for similar work by the employers with whom we compete for quality staff, if financially able, based upon the average rates of the comparable regional public employers and Windsor-area private employers.”
Mayor John Vazquez said it was his personal philosophy that the town’s compensation package should be in line with the private sector, but not necessarily with the town’s surrounding municipalities.
Town Manager Kelly Arnold said the policy has been around at least 15 years and has been what past board’s have used to guide staff salary discussions. The board’s decisions about staff salaries will set the policy for the next two years, until the board looks at the question again.
Swallow said he will gather and analyze financial data from the neighboring municipalities in Northern Colorado, as well as 14 other municipalities in the state, in order to give the board a clear picture of how other municipalities compensate their employees.
Vazquez said he didn’t want the town being compared to its neighbors, before briefly stepping out of the meeting.
“This is where, when you come back to us and you say, ‘Well Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley, Larimer and Weld are the surrounding areas. To be fair, we should be doing this.’ And I’m going to tell you it’s a colossal waste of your time,” Vazquez said. “I don’t want to be compared to Fort Collins and Loveland and Greeley, because we’re not 80,000 people. We’re not that land mass. We’re not that budget. We’re not that staff. And so I’m a little frustrated right now at the belittling of some of my comments, because it is imperative to your effort if you want to bring good data back to me. Otherwise let me know when you’re going to do it and I’ll take the night off, because if we’re going to just be fair, because Fort Collins does it, and fair because Greeley does it, it’s a waste of my time.”
Board member Robert Bishop-Cotner said the board doesn’t have to set salaries at the same level as its nearby competitors, rather, the data would allow the town to know where they stand compared to others.
Board member Myles Baker agreed, saying he felt it would be good information to have.
Vazquez said if Windsor’s staff salaries are compared to Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley, the town will always come in fourth, and it should strive to set itself apart in other ways.
Board member Christian Morgan said if Windsor’s average housing cost is compared to nearby areas, it actually ranks the highest.
“How many of our employees, out of the 100 we have, starting today can qualify for a new home,” Morgan asked. “I would beg to argue that it’s close to zero. You have to stay here for a while in order to even buy an average-size house.”
Swallow said he will continue with the study and bring back the results to the board, at which point they will be able to further discuss how they would like to set the compensation policy.