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The Big "IF" on Funding a Five Dollar an Hour Raise for La Junta City Workers

(La Junta, CO) -- You might've heard La Junta City Council passed a first reading and this week, a second reading to put a question on the November ballot to raise sales tax by one percent.

La Junta City Manager Rick Klein explained to Colorado News Your Way in a follow up interview that inflation is hurting everyone. He said the money would be used to fill in the gaps where costs have increased for materials the city needs. Klein also mentioned it would help the city fund five dollar an hour pay raises for all city workers.

But, what IF the sales tax question is voted down in November? A tax increase is a hard pill to swallow with high food and gas prices already devastating our communities.

Klein responded that if the ballot question should fail they will have to tighten the budget belt.

"Quality of life will fall, the library, the senior center..." those are places that could see a dramatic cut to funding and support. Klein said his biggest concern, however, was saving the workforce. As more companies are offering more money to workers all counties in the state have seen a sort of poaching of employees taking place. In fact, in response to La Junta's call to give raises to city workers, Las Animas' city council voted to give their workers the same raise.

Retention isn't just an issue for municipalities and county government. According to Forbes magazine on line, there was a record mass exodus from employment in 2021, a record 4.3 million people nationwide quit their jobs.

The article mentions that working from home, competitive job markets, the economy and just a change in the way we view employment are some of the reasons. And Forbes says it's likely not going to slow down anytime soon.

Klein expects the increase in wages for workers to be more than 1.3 million dollars per year.

At Monday night's city council meeting, council member Ed Vela made a motion to add an amendment to the city's sales increase question that would allow the sales tax to sunset, or go away, after two years time. There wasn't a second on the motion and it died.

Going forward, Klein says he wants the community to know they just want to keep the workers they have. Time will tell if La Junta residents will approve a sales tax increase as it appears to be moving toward being on November's ballot.


Listen to the discussion from Monday night's city council on the ballot question here:

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