Summit County asks workers, employers to fill out minimum wage survey
FRISCO — Summit County officials are urging residents and business owners to share their perspectives on living and working in the county as officials consider a potential raise in the minimum wage.
Earlier this year, Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law allowing local governments to establish and enforce their own minimum wage requirements, acknowledging an already wide range of cost of living across the state.
In Summit County, discussions began almost immediately among county and town officials wondering if a raise in minimum wage could help to address some of the county’s livability concerns. But before any decisions are made, officials are hoping to put the question to employees and employers in the area to determine the best course of action.
A countywide work group already has been formed to help lead the community discussion, including the county, towns, ski areas, school district and businesses, among other entities. But with strong opinions on both sides of the debate, officials are hoping to gather even more input.
“At this point, we’ve just been talking about background and talking about the legislation itself and what authorities it offers,” County Manager Scott Vargo said. “We started to get into discussions around some of the data locally, and it became pretty apparent that we really needed to get more and better data than what we had available to us already. That lead to this survey the county has put together. … It will be interesting to see what the data shows and what information we can glean from that.”
The county recently put out three surveys online, two for employees in the county, in English and Spanish, and another for business owners and operators in the county.
The work group already has made a number of public outreach efforts, including open houses. Julie Sutor, the county’s director of communications, said the group has received a lot of feedback from business owners but is lacking the perspective of employees. The surveys, of which more than 800 already have been completed, are meant to provide a more well-rounded view of the topic.
“We’re trying to get a better understanding of what industries and what areas are paying what amounts,” Vargo said. “We’re trying to get a better read on if I work in a restaurant and I get tips, what do I typically get in tips on top of my hourly wage? What is my hourly wage? This goes for the retail sector, the ski industry, government, etc.”
Vargo noted that the surveys also would dive into benefits like health care and housing subsidies, and will help to evaluate whether county and town officials are hearing the same things from employers and their employees.
“Certainly, we’ve heard from a number of workers who would like to see a wage increase and that cost of living is too high, housing costs are too high, and it’s difficult to make a go of it here in Summit County,” Vargo said. “The business owners have said the same thing but believe that a wage adjustment isn’t the way to solve that issue.”
Discussions regarding a potential wage increase are still in their infancy, though the county is hoping to have some direction set by the end of this year, Vargo said.
Any minimum wage increases wouldn’t require voter approval meaning the county and towns could choose to move forward with any increases they see fit. It also means there could potentially be different minimum wages around the county, though the work group is meant to help avoid such inconsistencies.
Vargo said the work group hasn’t yet discussed what new wages potentially could come out of the decision, but he said there’s a cap at a 15% annual increase. The state’s minimum wage is set to increase to $12 in 2020, meaning the earliest and highest any wage increases could go in Summit County is to $13.80 starting in January 2021.
“We’re trying to understand the perspectives of the work group and the needs landscape locally in Summit County so we can figure out the best path forward,” Sutor said. “The first step we’re in now is collecting all that information and data.”
The surveys are open online at summitcountyco.gov/minwage through Sunday, Nov. 3.
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