Workers’ pay 38 percent of city spending

Annual salaries of full-time city of Grand Junction workers in the new year could range from $31,000 for a custodian to a little more than $153,000 for the city manager. Salaries for all department directors and most managers come near or top $100,000.

Salaries, benefits and other employee expenses for the current 630 employees make up 38 percent of the city’s budget.

“By comparisons to other cities, it is a good figure,” Grand Junction spokeswoman Sam Rainguet said. “Other cities have over 50 percent to salaries.”

Grand Junction is proposing a total budget of $147.2 million for 2011, which City Council members are expected to adopt Wednesday. Next year’s budget has increased compared to 2010 because of additional capital improvements costs and debt service or scheduled loan payments. The city’s budget was $132.7 million in 2010.

Every two years, the city typically compares all city salaries to positions in other comparable cities. This year, Grand Junction compared a portion of the city’s positions to their counterpart jobs in Pueblo, Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley, Broomfield, Westminster, Thornton, Englewood, Longmont and Arvada.

According to the partial listing of positions compiled by the Colorado Municipal League, Grand Junction city employee salaries were less than 1 percent, or 0.08 percent, higher than the average of those 10 cities.

City Council member Sam Susuras said he wanted to see a comparison of public sector wages to private sector wages. He was disappointed when the market study didn’t reflect that comparison. Although he thinks city workers are hard-working and qualified, Susuras said he was shocked to learn that the city offers full matches for employees’ retirement contributions.

“I get a lot of comments from people, ‘Why are the public people paid so much?’ ” he said. “In my banking career, we matched dollar for dollar (for 401ks) but I thought those days were gone.”

City Manager Laurie Kadrich said salaries are higher at the city than in the private sector because some city positions require specific degrees and professional licensing. Many of the part-time workers are seasonal, saving the city money, she said.

Kadrich said residents tend to see city workers as the ones who collect bills or fill potholes.

“They don’t see the people in a water lab that are turning sewer sludge into a product that goes back into the river,” she said. “Those are the people that cost a lot to have on staff, but they save the taxpayers money by keeping us in compliance.”

City workers across the board will not be receiving cost-of-living raises and employees will be required to pay more toward health care premiums. A 3 percent across-the-board pay cut instated in 2009 will not be replenished. Full-time employees receive a 100 percent match on their 401(k) retirement savings with a 6 percent contribution.

Police and fire employees contribute a mandatory 10.65 percent to retirement savings because they don’t pay toward Social Security.

The six elected members of the City Council receive $500 a month, and the mayor receives $750 a month. They receive designated parking spaces at City Hall and some reimbursements for mileage.


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