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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of September 3 - 9, 2003


Ketchum council approves employee raises

In lean times, almost all
employees to get pay hikes

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum City Council members this week approved a new pay plan for the city that will issue raises to all but one of its 74 regular employees.

After a lengthy discussion of the matter Monday, Sept. 2, the panel voted 3-1 to adopt a new nine-step pay plan for city employees that will more closely resemble those of other Rocky Mountain resort cities.

Councilman Randy Hall voted against adoption of the plan, stating that he believes it too heavily favors higher-ranked city employees—perhaps at the expense of rank-and-file workers. He said he was "not comfortable" approving a pay plan that would issue in the next budget year approximately $22,000 in pay increases to department heads and senior staffers.

At issue is an August 2003 report commissioned by the city to assess whether typical city staffers receive salaries and benefits similar to those issued by some 20 Western resort cities, such as Aspen, Colo., Park City, Utah, and Jackson, Wyo. The report was compiled by The Local Government Institute, a research and consulting firm located near Seattle.

In the report, the LGI recommended that the city abolish its complex salary structure—which consists of four separate pay plans, each with double-digit job-value grades and potential salary step increases—in favor of a new, more uniform plan that applies to all city departments and employees.

Don Morrison, executive director of the LGI, personally recommended last week that the City Council adopt a uniform nine-step plan for all departments.

The proposed nine-step plan calls for increases for all city employees—except for one senior dispatcher—to bring the city’s salaries in line with those of comparable cities. As part of the plan, several senior city officials, including some department heads, would receive salary increases of more than $200 per month.

The cost to the city to implement the plan in its first year would be approximately $88,000.

Ron LeBlanc, city administrator, on Monday proposed that the city adopt the recommended nine-step plan, maintain the city’s 8 percent ceiling on salary step increases, and delay for six months—until April—an additional 1.5 percent cost-of-living-adjustment payment to be issued to all employees.

The city administrator also noted that the city could save approximately $8,000 if it delayed implementation of the plan until one month into the 2003-2004 fiscal year.

The council on Monday approved all of the recommendations issued by LeBlanc.

Before the meeting, LeBlanc said the city has retained approximately $90,000 in the 2003-2004 budget to cover the costs of the new salary plan. The salary increase will in part be funded with money originally included in the budget for a larger, 3 percent COLA benefit for employees.

The LGI salary survey studied 10 "benchmark" positions in the city, but did not analyze the salaries of department heads. LeBlanc said he has conducted an internal comparison of department head salaries in Ketchum to those of several Colorado cities.

Hall said he thinks the council should look at restricting some pay raises for senior officials. "It’s a little uncomfortable talking about it," he said. "But I think it’s something that needs to be talked about."

Councilman Baird Gourlay on Monday initially agreed with Hall, questioning if the city’s department heads should be issued pay increases through the 2003-2004 budget after most received substantial pay increases this year. However, Gourlay later determined that the plan is appropriate for the city.

In addition to adopting the nine-step pay plan, the LGI report also recommended that the city "form a committee to explore medical coverage options" to reduce its medical costs.

The city is slated to spend a total sum of approximately $1.1 million on healthcare costs in the 2003-2004 fiscal year.

LeBlanc said Mayor Ed Simon has initiated the formation of a committee to study Ketchum’s options in providing employee healthcare.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.