Aspen city employee benefits suffer |

Aspen city employee benefits suffer

ASPEN, Colorado – City of Aspen employees will individually lose thousands of dollars in compensation between 2008 and 2010, as a result of higher costs and the economic downturn which is hitting the local tourism economy harder than predicted.

City financiers on Monday explained to the Aspen City Council how employees’ loss in benefits translates into a decrease in dollars as part of their total compensation packages.

Employees who have an average tenure of two years will lose $1,429; those employed for the past 10 years will lose $1,579, and those who have worked in City Hall for 25 years will lose $3,831, according to Ashley Ernemann, the city’s assistant finance director.

“That’s a pretty big hit,” said Councilman Dwayne Romero.

Those reductions account for the elimination of specific employee bonus programs, a reduction in the wellness and fitness benefit, and higher health insurance premiums.

Councilman Derek Johnson suggested that the city find ways to lessen the pain to employees by offering them free passes and access to city-owned facilities such as the Aspen Recreation Center, the golf course and the Wheeler Opera House.

The council appeared agreeable and directed department heads in charge of those facilities to come back with a proposal that includes giving city employees access during off-peak times.

The 263 full-time employees who will be employed in 2010 will receive $300 for their fitness-and-wellness benefit. Last year, it was $990, according to Alissa Farrell, the city’s human resources director.

Another benefit that has been eliminated is the “Over the Top Award,” which was designed for exceptional employees to receive a monetary reward of $50 to $150, dependent on their meritorious performance.

City employees’ salaries also will be frozen in 2010, as they were in 2009. In previous years, city employees enjoyed between 6 and 7 percent pay increases.

City officials in February froze all employee salaries, and eliminated or reduced some benefits and bonuses. Those personnel and benefit cuts amounted to about $1.4 million in savings.

More than $2.4 million in total cuts were made to the city’s 2009 general fund, which included eliminating or freezing 20 positions, with nine employee layoffs.

Last month, the Aspen city government laid off 12 more employees and eliminated four other positions, shaving $1.36 million off its operating budget.

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