Steamboat Springs Police Department aims to make up for sheriff’s office on paycheck
Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputies currently start with a salary about $13,000 more than new Steamboat Springs Police Department officers.
The starting assistant salary — $72,000 as of Feb. 1 — beats the starting officer salary by $29.57 an hour, or about $61,505 a year.
Routt County recently conducted an employee wage survey to ensure its employees are paid fairly and competitively, an effort to potentially prevent employees from seeking employment elsewhere and make them feel valued for the job. that they do.
“One of the things we know that tends to be true is that in resort communities the pay tends to be lower and the cost of living is higher,” the county commissioner said. Routt, Beth Melton. “We don’t want to lose our staff to other places in the state. We want to be able to hold them back. »
The county consultant compared county jobs across the state, not just in other resort communities, and found that Routt County paid about 20% less than many counties for several positions, including his sheriff’s office. To combat this, the county increased the salaries of its deputies.
Routt County Deputy Sheriff Doug Scherar said the pay raise was necessary to address the skyrocketing cost of living in Routt County.
“When we get applicants from out of town, they’re interested in coming to work here, but when they look at the cost of living and the cost of rent, they back off because they could make more money. on the Front Range, where it’s more affordable,” Scherar said.
Because the city pays its officers less than the county makes its deputies, City Manager Gary Suiter said the city is struggling to hire officers, when living in one place and working for the sheriff’s office could be a lot. more attractive because of the salary increase. .
Suiter said the city plans to conduct a salary survey of all employees later this year, but he hopes to settle law enforcement salaries sooner than that.
Police Chief Sherry Burlingame has appointed an employee task force to look into the matter and plans to submit a request for a salary increase to city council in the coming weeks, Suiter added in a written report to city council.
“Obviously if people can’t afford to live here or can’t find a house, they can’t be police here,” Burlingame said in an interview.
Routt County’s two largest law enforcement agencies — the sheriff’s office and the city police department — are still understaffed. The police department currently has 21 officers when it should have 29, and the sheriff’s office has 19 staff at the jail when it is expected to have 23, and 19 on patrol when the office is expected to have 21.
“I think it’s mainly because the cost of living in Routt County is so high,” Scherar said.
Difficulty hiring and retaining law enforcement officers is a national problem, Scherar and Burlingame said. Still, the two said the negative sentiment toward law enforcement was likely just a small problem in Routt County.
“I think, for the most part, Routt County is supportive of their emergency services,” Scherar said.
Still, Burlingame said the issue of retention comes down to more than salary. She wants to make sure officers feel valued and supported, both by the department and by the community.
“Part of that is making sure people have that supportive environment and they’re compensated appropriately and don’t have to worry about putting food on the table,” Burlingame said. “But when I look at this issue, I don’t see it as just investing money on the issue.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email [email protected]