Council approves COLA increase, merit pay boost for city staffers

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By William J. Dagendesh

Manitou Springs City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 15, voted 6-1 to approve the 2023 budget, adding a 3 percent cost of living adjustment for city staff and a 5 percent budgeted merit pay increase. Councilor Julie Wolfe dissented.

Merit pay, known as pay-for-performance, is based on a set of criteria set by the employer. The employer usually conducts a review meeting with the employee to discuss their work performance during a particular time period.

The vote was the result of the first reading of Ordinance No. 2222, which adopts the annual budget and appropriates funds for fiscal year 2023, and amends the annual budget for fiscal year 2022. City staff compensation, the Cog Railway agreement and the local Holiday Inn figured in the discussion.

Per the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, local governments levying property tax must adopt their budgets before certifying the mill levy to the county, according to Finance Director Becca Davis. The deadline for certifying the mill levy is Dec. 15; the Budget Appropriation Ordinance was presented for first reading to meet this requirement, she said.

The ordinance covers the General Fund, 13 other funds and total expenditures for a total of $25,744,446, Davis said.

“Due to time constraints, the Nov. 8 election results are not reflected in the budget book, but they will be in there for the second reading. I edited the General Fund to reflect that vote, so its numbers are as of after Nov. 8,” Davis said.

She said two proposals originally were presented to council, but with the strong fund balance, staff determined that only the first proposal would be considered. An assigned General Fund balance for 2022, before the Nov 8 election results, was projected to be more than $6.6 million, she said.

“With recreational marijuana not passing in Colorado Springs, the sales tax will be adjusted, bringing the General Fund balance to $8,385,106, and the Appropriation Ordinance has those numbers in it,” Davis said.

Staff brought items to council for discussion for possible changes to the budget for the second reading.

“First, the leadership team is recommending a 2-3 percent COLA in addition to the already budgeted 5 percent merit increase. So, council is being asked to approve a COLA percentage increase and determine what that should be,” Davis said.

“Second, the Cog agreement disbursement is budgeted. It is under revenues and what I call a revenue appropriation. So, the revenue for the Excise Tax is shown net of the disbursement to the Cog.”

Davis said 2022 saw more than $300,000 paid to the Cog for its tax rebate based on 2021 tax collections.

“Third, the Urban Renewal Authority has asked council if it would budget a disbursement for the URA. Once these decisions have been made and the budget is appropriated at first reading with any changes that are decided on tonight, staff recommends that this budget be appropriated at first reading,” Davis said.

She said COLA for 2 percent, including benefits, is forecast to cost $94,300, 3 percent would be $141,400.00 and 5 percent would be about $223,880.

Council’s Cog agreement discussion included Davis outlining the current state of the budget and the full rebate in the way it was designed. Davis anticipates reimbursement of about $600,000 in 2023 to the Cog if the full amount allowed under the contract is appropriated. Davis has nothing budgeted for use tax, only for excise tax, she said.

Councilor Nancy Fortuin recommended that the city honor the agreement with the Cog by appropriating the amount contracted in accordance with the contract.

“The result is we don’t get sued and don’t lose credibility as a city that doesn’t honor its obligations,” Fortuin said.

Also, council voted 7-0 to approve Mayor Pro Tem John Shada trading council responsibilities with Fortuin.

During a previous meeting, Shada said that several circumstances in his personal life are requiring more of his time and asked that he swap roles with Fortuin. Shada is now appointed to vice mayor pro tem. The change is effective immediately.

Additionally, council voted 7-0 to approve resident Wren Almitra to serve with the Manitou Arts, Heritage, and Culture board. Almitra, who relocated from Iowa to Manitou Springs three years ago, has a grant writing and community services background.

Almitra worked as the Rapid Creek Watershed coordinator with the Johnson County Soil and Water Conservation District in Iowa. While in that position, she served on the Johnson County Women, Land and Legacy team for two years.

“I have been looking for more opportunities to get involved with the community, and this seemed like a good way to help with community endeavors,” Almitra said.

Councilor Judith Chandler voiced her appreciation for Almitra’s service and welcomed her to the community.

“I was impressed with your resume and the MACH is lucky to have someone with your caliber of skill set. I appreciate you stepping up to the plate in serving the community,” Chandler said.

Council also voted 6-1 to approve a rate increase for city attorneys Hoffmann, Parker, Wilson & Carberry P.C. (Shada dissented.) Lastly, councilors heard that the applicant had withdrawn a request for a conditional use permit, a new wireless service, at 125 Higginbotham Road.

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the next regular meeting will start at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6.

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