Council discusses increasing staff wages, instituting housing incentives
Hayden Town Council is looking at new policies designed to help the town maintain and attract employees in both the long and short term.
During a work session last week, town council discussed increasing workers’ pay and offering other employee incentives. It’s a move town staff hope would help Hayden keep pace with other municipalities that are boosting compensation. Late last month, Routt County increased the minimum wage for county employees to $20 an hour.
Town Manager Mathew Mendisco said there is a stark difference in pay, especially when it comes to public safety. While a deputy at the Routt County Sheriff’s Office starts at about $72,000 a year, a patrolman with the Hayden Police Department starts at about $51,000.
Looking further into the future, Mendisco and town Planning Director Tegan Ebbert talked about potential policy changes that could help grow workforce housing in Hayden, either by incentivizing it, instituting inclusionary zoning policies or maybe even having the town build it.
Mendisco threw out the idea of a 4.5% raise for most staff, which he said the town’s budget can handle. The budget already plans to increase wages by 6% in November. Council members were generally supportive of continuing to look at wage increases, with Bob Reese saying the bump may need to be as high as 6%.
Mayor Zach Wuestewald asked if there could be another way to increase total compensation without adding to employees’ tax burden, such as offering a gas card for employees. Council members Ryan Banks suggested offering additional paid time off by having employees work 36 hours but get paid for 40.
“I do worry a little bit about the cost of just our general operating, especially with projects we’re doing,” Banks said, noting he wanted to be sure town council is being fiscally responsible. “I don’t want us to catch ourselves in the crosshairs of rising costs of our projects and this.”
Council member Casey Bowman suggested offering some sort of child care benefit as well.
Mendisco said staff would consider the options discussed and bring council a more defined policy proposal at its next meeting.
The conversation then switched to a potential housing incentive policy, which Mendisco said previous councils had wanted to explore, but it didn’t seem like the right time then.
“That time is probably now,” Mendisco said.
Ebbert presented three different paths the town could take. The first would be to offer incentives to developers for them to build attainable housing at a variety of levels in Hayden. This could be incentives like density bonuses, waiving town planning fees or expediting the permitting process.
Another option would be to assess impact fees on new development that would be set aside to fund future development potentially by the town itself. Ebbert said some communities only assess these types of fees on commercial developments that may have more impacts on the need for workforce housing.
The third idea was to adopt inclusionary zoning policies that would require a certain amount of units in a new multi-family development to be attainable. If those were for-sale units, a certain number of them would need a deed restriction or if they were for rent, they would need to be priced based on the area median income.
“Inclusionary zoning is something that exists in a lot of communities around the state,” Ebbert said, pointing to Carbondale.
Not only could these policies help add housing for town staff, they could help with housing for Hayden School District employees. School Board Member Ryan Wattles said as many as 40% of the district’s workforce lives in Steamboat or Craig.
“If the town of Hayden goes in what I think is the right direction and continues to be a welcoming community for people that can’t afford a million dollar home in Steamboat, that really benefits all of us,” Wattles said.
Mendisco said staff is working on a housing needs assessment for Hayden that will be ready in June, which is when council will look at these policies again in more detail.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.