Windsor staff members could see a 4 percent merit pay raise on top of a nearly 15 percent jump in town-covered healthcare benefits in 2014 under the current proposed budget, but not everyone believes now is the right time for the spending hike or even whether it matches what’s happening in the private sector.
The Windsor Town Board and staff department heads last week spent nearly six hours reviewing and fine tuning the proposed 2014 budget. Each October, Windsor officials outline spending and project plans for the following year during a budget retreat which describes everything from grants and revenues streams to spending and long-term projects. While most of the discussion went without any major changes, things got a little more heated when the topic of pay increases for the town’s 94 full-time, benefited employees came up.
Town Manager Kelly Arnold in the draft budget requested a 3.5 percent “merit pool” raise, which would be up to the discretion of department heads who evaluate employees annually. That 3.5 percent raise would have accounted for about $220,000 in added expenditures and coincides with a hike in employee health benefits, which the town will also absorb to the tune of $68,000.
But that pay jump wasn’t enough for some board members, including Robert Bishop-Cotner, who fought for a 4 percent hike and at times lobbied for a one-time bonus of $300-$500. Citing their backgrounds in public education, Bishop-Cotner and Ivan Adams maintained that everyone needed to feel valued as an employee, including those who are at the cusp of getting the merit pay raise but didn’t quite make the cut because of a boss’s evaluation.
That’s the benefit of the one-time bonuses, Adams said, adding that it can be used as an incentive to help people get to the next level of performance.
The position the board walked away with unofficially was a 4 percent pay merit pay raise, which amounts to about $250,000 in added salary expenditures compared to 2013 — $30,000 higher than Arnold initially proposed.
Merit pay raises are common within communities, Arnold said, adding that among Colorado municipalities the increase typically ranges between 3 percent and 5 percent. But Mayor John Vazquez, said a combined medical expense increase and employee wage jump that totals $318,000 was too much and did not reflect accurately what is happening in the private sector.
“My position was let’s hold back on giving any big adjustments that are long-term obligations before we know how out of balance we might be in some areas or others,” he said pointing to a salary survey set for next year. A bonus would reward staff all at once, which he said could reduce the necessary percentage pay raise and show the town’s appreciation while balancing fiscal responsibility.
Even though Windsor continues to net record levels of sales tax revenue, bulges with new homes and continues planning major developments for the future, Vazquez said the matter of fiscal caution was being overshadowed.
“People have this expectation that when the town does well, people should get extraordinary compensation,” he said. “I believe the town revenues ought to go back into town assets. Obviously staff is part of that. Our staff does a great job and they deserve some recognition, but there’s reasonable compensation and then there isn’t. I’m of the opinion right now that the terms that we agreed to were excessive.”
The 4 percent hike was tentatively approved during the budget discussion and there are currently no meetings scheduled to talk exclusively about the pay issue, though Vazquez said he welcomed any additional dialogue.
The final 2014 budget with any and all changes is scheduled for adoption Nov. 25.