COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The City Council is discussing whether next year's budget should include a 3% employee pay increase that would make it easier to fill open city positions and prevent current workers from leaving for higher-paying jobs elsewhere.
Monday's daylong discussion was the council's first budget session in the process toward finalizing the budget by mid-December.
City officials said that because of economic conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, a salary increase is necessary to keep pay in city jobs competitive with jobs in similar cities elsewhere.
The raise would cost $9 million.
"We also have employees leaving for jobs in the private sector where they can earn more," said Charae McDaniel, the city's chief financial officer. "And we're having difficulty finding qualified people to fill openings."
Councilman Bill Murray expressed strong opposition to the proposed pay increase.
"If people want to go to the private sector, let them go," he said. "They're free to seek better opportunities. Last year with the money we spent on hiring four people in the city attorney's office, we could have hired 29 parks workers."
But Councilmen Richard Skorman and Wayne Williams disagreed.
"I don't think we should just say let them go after we've spent the time and effort to train them," Skorman said.
Williams said, "The job market has changed and our budget should change along with it. Just saying goodbye to our employees is, I think, a very poor plan."
Earlier this year, city employees received a one-time pay increase from federal COVID recovery funds.
According to data from city staff, 39 job opening are currently posted and another 262 are in various stages of the recruiting process.
The police and fire departments also presented their budget needs during Monday's session, which stated at 9 a.m. and ended at 4 p.m.; Police Chief Vince Niski said that his department is changing its recruitment strategy to emphasize the city as a great place to live and work.
The public works and parks and recreation departments presented their budget needs during the afternoon session.