Some city workers to get raises

Compensation study shows half of municipal employees are underpaid

Nearly half of the city’s employees can expect a pay increase effective July 1.

Prompted by high turnover rates and small hiring pools, the City of Cortez recently commissioned the Mountain States Employer’s Council to conduct a wage study.

The report found that 48 of the city’s 100 employees currently earn wages under the recommended minimum starting range.

“The low wages cross over multiple departments,” MSEC official Sheree Steiner told council members Tuesday night at their regular meeting.

The study shows that the Cortez Police Department has the most full-time employees whose salaries fall below the minimum starting point. The police shortfall totals more than $62,000, according to the report.

“If we make these adjustments, I think we will start attracting more qualified officers,” said Cortez Police Chief Roy Lane. “You get what you pay for.”

Mayor Dan Porter supported the measure, saying the police department has long served as a training ground for officers. Pleased with the department’s current staff, Porter said he hates providing officers with their necessary certification only to watch them leave for better-paying jobs.

“Our starting wages are not right,” said City Manager Shane Hale. “I honestly thought this report would have been worse.”

All of the city council members were in favor of immediately raising employee wages to the minimum starting point, pointing out fair wages could help boost morale and production.

Hale was expected to break the news to city employees by today.

“This report is a way for us to surgically address wages that are not up to snuff,” Hale said. “Starting July 1, we are going to bring every soul up to the starting minimum wage of their position. It’s a no brainer.”

According to the study, raising all employee wages to the minimum starting point will impact city coffers by more than $100,000 annually.

Raising wages on July 1 will cost the city $50,704 in 2013.

Hale said that increases ranging from 1.25 to 5 percent would be awarded to bring city employee wages in line with the study’s findings.

City officials also plan to appropriately boost any senior employee wages to combat against potential morale problems that could arise from the new starting wage increases, Hale said.

In addition to the police department, the report indicates that other departments with low starting wage points include employees at parks and recreation, the library, general services and the city manager’s office.

In other news, the City of Cortez adopted a new ordinance regulating occupied RVs on private and public property.

No one opposed the measure during a public hearing Tuesday evening.

J.D. Lopez of South Maple Street addressed council members in favor of the new ordinance, saying his neighbor has guests staying in a RV outside his home for months on end.

“This can become a problem, and we need to nip it in the bud right away,” Lopez said.

Unanimously approved by the city council, Ordinance No. 1179 limits occupancy of RVs and travel trailers on private property or public roadways to 30 days per calendar year.

Those found violating the new regulation could face a maximum $500 daily fine.

The city council next meets on June 25.