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Granby trustees OK pay raises, chamber position, bike race purse

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi News
Grand County, CO Colorado

GRANBY – Each donning elf and Santa hats (and reindeer antlers for one), town trustees were in the giving spirit with the approval of a Granby town budget that includes town expenditures for a bike-racing purse on Memorial Day weekend, town employee merit pay and a new economic development employee working for the chamber of commerce.

Trustees voted on each of these budget additions, together totaling $90,600, at the final budget hearing on Dec. 14.

In a 5-2 vote, with Mayor Jynnifer Pierro and Trustee Ed Raffety dissenting, trustees elected to budget for 3 percent merit-pay raises for town employees. The raises, which could cost the town as much as $40,000 in the 2011 budget year, may be applied based on performance evaluations or to establish a salary schedule, which the town manager endorsed.



The decision was not an easy one for many trustees.

Trustee Greg Guthridge started out discussion on the merit raises before the vote, saying in light of the message delivered from recent Colorado tax-slash ballot initiatives put on the November ballot, 60, 61 and 101, plus 7.5 percent insurance hikes the town will absorb, he wasn’t sure raises were in order at this time.



“Taxpayers are going to start asking, where does it stop?” he said of government spending.

Town manager Wally Baird highlighted town savings of as much as $60,000 in one year when most town employees switched to high-deductible health plans in which families pay high deductible out-of-pocket before 100 percent coverage kicks in. Even with the town contributing $2,000 annually to employee health savings accounts, the manager said the town has saved money.

The manager also highlighted the amount of added work employees have taken on since prior-year cuts of consultant help.

By example, Baird pointed out, police officers do zoning enforcement, which is “more than strictly police work”; the finance director does finances for not only the town but for the water and sewer authority and for the town’s general improvement districts; and parks and streets employees do “a variety of jobs.”

Trustee Deb Shaw added that the recreation department is growing without added employees.

“I think it’s the cost of doing business,” Shaw said of merit raises. “I think our staff has taken on other jobs. They stepped up to the plate.”

“How many years do we wait before we lose our good employees?” asked Trustee Elaine Henrekin.

Although employees each received $1,700 “stimulus” bonuses last year, employees have not had raises in three years.

“When is the right time?” Trustee Ken Coatney asked rhetorically. “How long do you wait?”

Coatney said he was comfortable with the research town staff members had done to make sure the town is in line with its compensation and supported the budgeted merits.

Trustee Greg Mordini reasoned that a $40,000 town expenditure for 3 percent merit payments may not even cover inflation over the last three years. He also shared “reasons for optimism” in town finances, such as the fact that sales-tax income has held steady.

“I struggle with the merit increases,” said Town Mayor Jynnifer Pierro.

As a person who owns a private business and has had to lay off good employees and cut salaries by 20 percent, she was “at an impasse,” she said.

“I’ll vote with the majority, whatever that might be,” she said.

Yet, in the end, Pierro voted like Raffety against the merit pay.

Trustees said they likely will re-visit health care plans in the 2012 budget.

Town position, title sponsorship pass

Guthridge, who relented and voted for the merit pay, didn’t support budgeting for a new $25,600 economic development position that would work under the umbrella of the Granby Area Chamber of Commerce to promote Main Street programs, nor did Guthridge support funding a $25,000 purse that would make the town a title sponsor to attract potentially large crowds to a Memorial Day Weekend SolVista bike race.

In passing the Solvista bike race purse money, Coatney said he would support budgeting for it, but wanted further “scrutiny” to “see more detail as to what the town is signing up to.”

And even though the mayor wasn’t for merit pay, she was in support of budgeting for economic growth.

“It feel like we need to address the difference between merit increases and economic development,” Pierro said. “Economic development brings in money to support raises. It brings people into town.”

What about the $800,000 windfall?

Most town trustees seemed to agree about what to do with the $800,000 sales-tax “windfall” it reaped when a state audit turned up lost sales tax to the town this year.

The large amount has not yet been spent, although $100,000 of it was allocated to capital reserves.

Many board members are leaning toward paying off the town’s debt of $450,000 it has from purchasing a former fire station-turned town public works shop two years ago. The town engaged in a lease-purchase of 4.22 percent for 10 years for the $550,000 building, according to Finance Director Sharon Spurlin, and the town could save about $67,000 annually for the next eight years if it were to pay it off. But further study on any early pay-off provisions are still in order, according to Spurlin.

Yet Trustee Shaw cautioned the town that it could “nickel and dime” away the $800,000 all while the future of the town’s finances remains uncertain in this recession.

She advocated keeping the money intact.

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.


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