COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

City of Colorado Springs employees will have the opportunity to earn a raise in 2012, a process that was almost eliminated from next year's budget by Mayor Steve Bach.

During the back-and-forth this week over budget vetoes and overrides, the mayor found himself defending a move to cut step raises from the budget. Step raises help employees hired at a lower wage earn 2 to 5 percent adjustments to their pay based on performance.

"I know it has been characterized by some as intended to penalize city employees," said Bach. "That is not my intent."

His budget plan, which was originally submitted in October, was to hold off on those raises for civilian employees until he receives the results of a study comparing Colorado Springs' pay structure to those of other cities and businesses.

"I offered to make sure that any increases that were due, that were on hold, would be paid retroactively, so that people would have a catchup," said Bach.

The city council blocked the freeze on step raises after receiving an email from a city auditor that detailed concerns about the mayor's plan.

Still, Bach is eager to see the wage compensation study and added that retaining current employees at the right pay level is a key for the city moving forward.

"We need the people that we have to stay, if that's possible," said Bach.