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Cortez raises starting pay and offers incentives to attract part-time and seasonal staff

Lifeguards are just one of the positions needing to be filled for the summer season. (Journal file photo)
Incentives are based on hours worked, referrals and more

As summer nears, the Cortez Parks and Recreation Department is offering higher starting pay and incentives to help recruit and retain summer seasonal and part-time staff for summer.

Starting pay ranges from $14.75 to $16.25, depending on the position. Recruitment, retention and referral incentives range from $100 to $500, depending on hours worked and the position, according to information provided by the city.

The range of starting hourly pay is $14.75, $15.25, $16 and $16.25.

People who start work by June 10 and work at least 80 hours by June 30 are eligible for a $200 bonus

The city also is offering two other retention incentives, one for lifeguards and one for all other positions in the city.

The lifeguard retention incentive starts at $150 for 100 hours worked and grows to $500 for 350 additional hours. Non-lifeguard staff can receive an incentive that starts at $100 for 100 hours worked and topping out at $250 for 350 or more hours.

Existing staff who recruit a new member who works 80 hours by June 30 will receive a $200 referral incentive. Performance issues, excessive call-offs and tardiness are taken into consideration, however.

The city hopes these adjustments will help attract staff to fill more than 100 part-time and summer positions. According to the city, less than 66% of these roles were filled in 2023 leading to a reduction of services and supervisors trying to over open shifts among other issues.

“Having so many unfilled positions leads to continued stagnation, falling behind on best practices, and not offering high-quality, creative opportunities for the community. The level of service in the parks and golf course is decreased, leading to complaints and delays in getting to regular maintenance tasks. Being short-staffed in the indoor and outdoor pools leads to fewer swim lessons offered to the community and cuts to the pool’s operational hours.”

“We struggle to recruit and retain employees for our programs and facilities. Being short-staffed impacts the community, and I am frustrated that we can't serve the community better,” said Parks and Recreation Director Creighton Wright.

Wright added that hiring before the pandemic wasn’t nearly as big of an issue, but the problem has grown since the COVID pandemic.

“High school students and recent high school graduates make up a large portion of our labor pool, and since the pandemic, this demographic has not worked as much, thus making the pool of eager part-time staff smaller,” Wright said. “This makes recruitment and retention difficult. Fewer employees means fewer programs and operational hours.”

Additional retention incentives are also offered to keep staff on through the end of the year. A new employee can receive a recruitment incentive and two recruitment incentives, one for summer and one for the end of the year.

The full list of available positions and qualifications can be found online at https://www.cortezco.gov/jobs.aspx.