Economy & Economic Development  July 13, 2022

Fort Collins considers minimum-wage increase

FORT COLLINS — A possible increase in the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour in Fort Collins moved a step closer Tuesday night, as City Council members reviewed a study presented by staff and reacted with a mix of enthusiasm and caution.

The issue is likely to be formally introduced to the council at its regular meeting Nov. 15.

Fort Collins’ current minimum wage is at the statewide level of $12.56. The Colorado Legislature passed a bill in 2019 that allows up to 10% of communities in the state to set their own rates but requires them to consult with surrounding local governments and engage businesses of various sizes — including those that employ tipped workers — as well as chambers of commerce, workers, labor unions and community groups. Any wage set by a local entity that is higher than the statewide minimum can only increase each year by $1.75 or 15%, whichever is higher, until the target wage is reached.

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According to research done by city staff with help from Denver-based Economic and Planning Systems, about one-fourth of Fort Collins’ workforce would benefit from a $15 minimum wage. The report contended that “existing research indicates that a higher local minimum wage generally does not lead to job losses or higher prices, but it does increase worker earnings and employee retention.”

Council member Shirley Peel reacted with caution, calling for “more data to make sure we get this right” and recounting concerns she has heard at local business functions that an increase in the minimum wage would have adverse effects including higher prices, fewer jobs and even business closures. Council member Tricia Canonico agreed that the issue is “scary for business,” and council member Emily Francis suggested that maybe another study session should be held before introducing an ordinance in November.

However, council member Kelly Ohlson countered that those issues are raised each time the minimum wage is increased and the consequences range “from minor to really minor.”

“If you help 50 people and three lose their jobs, I’ll take those odds,” Ohlson said.

By state law, staffers told council members, tipped workers could receive up to $3.02 less than the minimum wage and minors could receive 15% less.

Findings presented to the council acknowledged that raising the minimum wage would have “some negative effect on the rate of hiring for low-wage workers seeking a first job” and that the impact of a higher minimum wage can be offset by reductions in hours, but that “this is more likely to happen to less experienced workers.”

The study said evidence points to higher prices in restaurants, “although the effect is small,” but that minimum-wage increases don’t drive higher prices in most sectors including grocery, gas, retail chains and drugstores.

It calculated that a “living wage” in Fort Collins for a dual-income household with one child would be $18.49 per hour per wage earner.

Survey responses still are being tabulated by city staff, which reported that 998 responses had been received as of July 6. Two thirds of the responses so far have come from employees and slightly more than one in five from employers. 

FORT COLLINS — A possible increase in the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour in Fort Collins moved a step closer Tuesday night, as City Council members reviewed a study presented by staff and reacted with a mix of enthusiasm and caution.

The issue is likely to be formally introduced to the council at its regular meeting Nov. 15.

Fort Collins’ current minimum wage is at the statewide level of $12.56. The Colorado Legislature passed a bill in 2019 that allows up to 10% of communities in the state to set their own rates but requires them to consult with…

Dallas Heltzell
With BizWest since 2012 and in Colorado since 1979, Dallas worked at the Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Public News Service. A Missouri native and Mizzou School of Journalism grad, Dallas started as a sports writer and outdoor columnist at the St. Charles (Mo.) Banner-News, then went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before fleeing the heat and humidity for the Rockies. He especially loves covering our mountain communities.
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