Rena Gallegos empties containers at the East Boulder Recreation Center on Wednesday. City council on Tuesday will discuss increasing Boulder’s living wage.
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Boulder leaders on Tuesday will discuss a proposed increase in the living wage paid to city employees.

Currently, the city sets a $15.67 hourly wage for its employees, more than $4 per hour more than Colorado’s minimum wage of $11.10. Boulder City Council on Tuesday will discuss a proposed increase to $17.42 and will formally consider it as part of the annual budget process this fall to account for the fact that Boulder County is one of the state’s most expensive.

Although staffing levels could fluctuate between now and 2020, when the new wage would kick in, an estimated 50 standard employees and 90 temporary employees would see raises as part of the initiative.

“It is definitely a reflection of the increase in cost of living overall in Boulder County,” senior management analyst Pam Davis said.

The city used to calculate the wage as at least 120% of the federal poverty guidelines but now bases its calculations on the Colorado self-sufficiency standard to provide a more local lens. The increase would not apply to “nonstandard employment,” such as seasonal positions.

It would cost $401,000 to bring city staff to the new minimum and an additional $424,000 to increase contracts for custodial, landscape and emergency medical services — for a total budget increase of about $825,000. Staff proposed a 9% increase in the base recreation facility entry fees, in part to cover the increase for employees in the parks department. There would not be other fee increases.

One adult living in Boulder County needs an hourly wage of $14.51 to meet basic needs, while a family of four with two adults, a preschooler and a school-aged child would need an hourly wage of $20.32, according to a staff memo to council. Staff averaged those figures to come up with the proposed increase.

They also noted that across the state between 2001 and 2018, the self-sufficiency standard increased on average by 78%, while the median wage increased only 43%.

The proposed increase would not affect the city’s workers who make more than the living wage.

“Anyone who is currently below the $17.42, it’s just a matter of bringing them up,” Davis said. “… The city has done some analysis around how that impacts, then, the wages of those employees making more.”

The city is working with Gallagher Consulting to review the city’s classification and compensation system, Boulder spokesman Bryan Rachal said in an email. The process began in January and should return with final recommendations by late 2019 or early 2020.

“The purpose is to create a compensation strategy and classification structure that is easily understood by prospective and existing employees and supervisors,” Rachal said. “Next steps include recommending an updated and consolidated classification structure, conducting market salary surveys and reviewing all salary/comp related processes and policies.”

City council on Tuesday also will discuss a staff recommendation against in-sourcing all custodial work in favor of extending the scope of the audits the city conducts of its contractors who provide custodial services and requiring that schedules not be adjusted without written agreement by the city, according to the memo.

As for Boulder’s minimum wage more broadly, staff noted there is not capacity in the remainder of this year’s council work plan to address the matter.

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