Pueblo City Council to discuss residency requirements for city employees
The majority of people who work for the city of Pueblo don't live in the city.
Of the city's 609 employees, 329 live outside of the city limits. The city manager and city attorney are the only city employees required to live in the city.
Pueblo City Councilman and retired Pueblo firefighter Ed Brown has asked the city's legal department to explore what residency requirements it can impose on city employees.
"They're some of the highest-paid employees in the city and we're losing tax revenue by them living outside [the city]," Brown said.
Pueblo City Council President Sandy Daff is also troubled by the fact that most city employees don't reside in Pueblo. "I don't know what to make of it. I know that according to current contracts, they're not obligated to live within the city limits," she said.
Nearly 25 percent of the city's employees live in Pueblo West, including firefighter Damian Pritts.
"Some firefighters that have been here, especially the ones that have been here as long as myself, 20-plus years, they feel the need to kind of separate themselves and their family from the calls that we run," Pritts said.
The average salary for a city employee is about $60,000. The city has seen little growth in sales tax revenue in recent years and some council members believe having more city employees living in Pueblo will help boost it.
"By having higher-income city employees living within the city limits, it just stands to reason that it's going to drive up our economy a bit," Daff said.
The fire and police departments are the two biggest departments in the city. KRDO NewsChannel 13 found that 64 percent of fire department employees live outside of city limits and 58 percent of police department employees also live outside of the city.
"It certainly is OK with me that they're not far enough away to where it creates a problem for response if we had a need to call everybody back in," said Pueblo Police Chief Luis Velez.
Velez, like the majority of Pueblo city department heads, does not live in Pueblo. He lives in Colorado Springs. When asked why he resides in Colorado Springs, he replied, "Well, actually, when I obtained the position here as chief, it was right in the middle of the worst economic conditions for trying to sell a home and I made the decision back then that I was not going to try to sell my home. I think I would have taken a beating at that time."
For some on council, not having department heads living in the city is a hard pill to swallow. Daff said she would support requiring newly hired department heads to live within the city.
Daff said, "Just simply making it a part of their contract and incentivizing them to live in the city makes sense."
"I think if you work for the city you 'ought to live in the city," Brown said.
But if council decides to impose a tax on employees who are not in the city, a city employee warns the discussion could get ugly.
"I think a punitive type system or a punitive attitude is gonna get a lot of pushback from the employees. They're not going to want to invest back in our community," Pritts said.
KRDO NewsChannel 13 also found that 47 city employees take their work vehicle home. Thirty-one of those employees do not live in city limits.
Copyright 2014 KRDO. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.