Vail seeks ways to stop rise in employee turnover rates

The biggest part of Vail's municipal services budget goes to salaries and benefits.
Special to the Daily
By the numbers
  • $15,000: Average cost of replacing a town of Vail employee.
  • 37%: Town of Vail employees who are 50 or older.
  • 16% to 18%: Estimated staff turnover in 2019.
  • 11%: Average turnover 2014 — 2018.
  • Source: Town of Vail.

VAIL — Even good pay and benefits aren’t always enough to fill a staff.

The town of Vail is working now — and with some difficulty — to fill its winter seasonal positions, primarily bus drivers and parking attendants. The town also has a rapidly-aging staff, and is looking to both replace retiring employees and fill leadership roles as they open up in coming years.

Town finance director Kathleen Halloran and town human resources director Krista Miller Tuesday provided the Vail Town Council with an overview of town staffing and its problems.

With a tight job market throughout the valley, Miller told council members “there’s been some poaching” of town employees by other organizations. In the past six weeks alone, four town employees have accepted positions with Vail Health.

Miller said that “almost half” of departing employees have left for better opportunities, either locally or regionally. In exit interviews, Miller said many people cite higher wages and lower housing costs as reasons for leaving.

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Miller added that when seasonal employees leave they’re often accepting full-time jobs with benefits. This summer, there’s been a 39% turnover in summer seasonal positions — parking, landscaping and wildland firefighters.

“People don’t see what their long-term career path can be,” Miller said.

Trying to slow the merry-go-round

To help slow the churn of employees, the town has developed what it calls a “Total Rewards” program. That program includes attention to compensation and benefits, learning opportunities and employee experience.

In terms of compensation, the 2020 budget proposes a raise of between 1% and 1.5% for employees. Workers can earn another 3% to 5% through a merit system.

An estimated 5% increase in health care costs will be split between the town and its employees.

The town’s training programs include a management system to develop standardized performance measurements and reviews.

Personnel salaries and benefits account for the biggest portions of the town’s spending on municipal services — the operations of the town.

Municipal services is about 60% of the town’s annual operating budget — estimated at $50.9 million in 2020. Salaries and benefits will account for about $23.1 million for 2020 of that cost.

The child care factor

Talking about ways to keep employees in the organization, council member Greg Moffet suggested using child care as a retention device, especially for families with infants.

Infant care throughout the valley is hard to find and waiting lists are long.

Miller said the town’s contributions to the two daycare centers in Vail provides employees with first priority on waiting lists. Employees also get a small discount at those centers.

The town expects to spend roughly $85.3 million in 2020. The biggest share of that revenue — 39% — comes from sales tax collections. Since as many as four council positions could change in November, this council is expected to approve the 2020 budget at its Oct. 15 meeting.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at or 970-748-2930.

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