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Consortium of Cities discuss plan regarding minimum wage ordinance

The Boulder County Consortium of Cities met on April 3 to offer progress updates in developing a regional plan regarding minimum wage for incorporated towns and cities in Boulder County. Boulder County Ordinance 2023-4 became effective on Jan. 1, 2024, setting a minimum wage of $15.69 per hour for businesses in Niwot and other unincorporated areas of the county, 15% above Colorado’s 2023 minimum wage and $1.27 higher than that of surrounding incorporated towns and cities that currently pay $14.42. The ordinance also gradually increases the minimum wage to $25 per hour by 2030.

Unincorporated areas representing approximately 7% of Boulder County’s population, including Niwot, will pay the higher minimum wage until the Consortium of Cities develops and adopts a regional plan, which could extend throughout 2024 and some of 2025.

The Consortium of Cities, comprised of 11 cities and towns, including non-voting Broomfield, was established by the Boulder County Commissioners in 1986 to provide an organizational platform to promote communication among local governments and facilitate collaboration for the benefit of organizations and residents.

During the April 3 meeting, Boulder County Commissioner Marta Loachamin asked each municipality to provide an update on their constituents' feedback and a projected completion timeline. It was a mixed bag of progress with some municipalities starting their minimum wage process, some not interested, or others moving in another direction.

Newly elected Lyons Mayor Hollie Rogin mentioned that the previous Board of Trustees had no interest in pursuing a minimum wage regional plan, but stated that the current board, which was seated on April 15 might be interested.

The Town of Erie, represented by Trustee Ari Harrison had no update.

The Town of Superior Trustee Sandie Hammerly shared that the town’s current top priorities have been related to the Marshall Fire and local airport issues, and the town board was not ready to address a minimum wage increase over the next six to 12 months, although she felt it was worthwhile having a discussion.

City of Lafayette Mayor Pro Tem Brian Wong recapped that the Lafayette City Council had not yet discussed the minimum wage issue but started communicating with the Chamber of Commerce two weeks ago about a work session slated for April 11.

The City of Louisville’s work session was held on April 4 and a resulting discussion is scheduled for the city council’s agenda on July 16.

The City and County of Broomfield is a non-voting member of the Consortium and was represented by City Councilwoman Paloma Delgadillo for Ward 2. Delgadillo said, “At our council focus session on March 1 and 2 we discussed moving forward on the minimum wage issue and exploring a partnership with Adams County.” She stated that Broomfield City Council has not had a formal vote and has not officially "chosen to partner with Adams County.”

Delgadillo said, “This is a new initiative for us and in order to be successful, we need a partner moving at a similar rate in a similar stage of the process. I appreciate that the Consortium of Cities is moving forward on this and applaud my colleagues in Boulder County for taking up this issue. We don't think it's realistic for us to catch up to them at this point. Speaking for Broomfield specifically, this will certainly take until 2026 if not longer. We are just at the beginning phase, and my understanding is that the quality stakeholder engagement we need to move forward would take at least a year if not more.”

City of Longmont Councilman-at-Large, Sean McCoy, said Sandi Seader, Assistant City Manager, thought the Consortium’s Longmont representative may have an update to provide to the city council sometime this summer.

Councilman McCoy had several concerns with the current approach to minimum wage by the Boulder County Commissioners including what he refers to as “localized inflation.” McCoy expressed his concern that if a 16-year-old without a high school degree can walk off the street and start making $25 per hour in a restaurant, how will this impact the bookkeeper, with an associate degree making $25 per hour? The cycle could result in increased wages for those with associate degrees, certifications, and experience, resulting in localized inflation.

McCoy said he believes aligning a certification program with the minimum wage schedule that Boulder County Commissioners created can provide many benefits. These include incentivizing young individuals to enhance their training, mitigating localized wage inflation through certification, and providing pathways leading to high-wage, high-growth, and high-demand careers with a post-secondary trajectory

McCoy said that the framework within the school districts is in place to facilitate the coordination of a certification program with the minimum wage. Such an arrangement would align with Governor Polis’s initiative to “blur the lines” between K-12, higher education, and employers. He highlighted that around 20% of all job vacancies require a college degree, which can be costly, whereas a certification program could provide the skills often outlined in job descriptions.

McCoy asked Commissioner Loachamin if she had met with either St. Vrain Valley or Boulder Valley School Districts, two of the largest employers in Boulder County on the minimum wage issue. Loachamin said she had not.

McCoy pointed out that both school districts have some outstanding programs such as the Innovation Center, Career Elevation and Technology Center, and Longmont High School’s current associate degree in business.

When asked for his thoughts on Boulder County’s approach to minimum wage, McCoy said, “It is good politics and not necessarily good policy.”

Commissioner Loachmin stated in an earlier interview with the Left Hand Valley Courier that the Commissioners “focused on the value of an hour’s worth of work.” The value of an hour’s worth of work can fluctuate based on factors such as the nature of the work, the skill level required, prevailing wage rates, and economic conditions.

As the Consortium operates at different speeds and autonomy, areas like Niwot in unincorporated Boulder County will be required to pay a higher minimum wage compared to approximately 93% in incorporated Boulder County with some potential future unintended consequences.

 

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