The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 11, 2000

News

Town employees not paid fairly, boards tell FinCom

The boards that manage the town's land use and development patterns cannot operate next year within the 1.4 percent budget increase allowed by the finance committee's FY01 guideline, these boards announced at the February 2 budget hearing.

Members of the board of health and conservation commission each proposed budgets with an increase of 2.8 percent, each allowing salary increases of 3 percent, with modest increments in other categories. A memo from planning board treasurer Thomas Lane proposed the same 3 percent salary increases, with added clerical hours to allow the staff to cope with anticipated wireless special permit applications.

For offices with budgets that are almost entirely staff salaries, a low guideline doesn't allow a reasonable salary raise, because there are no other budget lines to absorb the impact of the 1.4 percent guideline, former board of health member Skip Saunders explained. That is, whatever the FinCom guideline is becomes a defacto salary increase, he added.

Board of health chair Steve Opolski also criticized as "irresponsible management" the inequity inherent in the town's policy on salary increases. FinCom guidelines limit salary increases for many town employees, while contract negotiations permit larger increases for unionized police officers and teachers. He suggested that the town adopt a policy of providing non-union employees with increases equivalent to the average cost of living increases given to unionized employees.

The staff are the history

Keeping staff members with experience has been a problem, according to Opolski and ConsCom representatives. "The people who serve as agents for these boards are the [town's] history and it's very, very bad policy not to pay them better," when there is constant turnover on the volunteer boards, ConsCom member John Lee told the FinCom.

Wage and salary study uncompleted, not funded

A study to determine how wage levels for town employees compare to other towns should be completed within the next few months. Town officials expect the results to clarify the discrepancies between current salaries and what employees "should" be paid. However, at present there is no provision in the FY01 budget for money to raise salaries beyond the 3 percent requested by nearly all town departments. FinCom chair Tony Allison indicated to the BOH and ConsCom representatives that finance committee members are waiting to see the recommendations of the study before making decisions on salary increases for next year.

A separate but related issue raised by Saunders and Opolski will not be resolved by the results of the wage study: the town's unwillingness to allow merit or longevity increases for non-union employees. FinCom member Tom Bilotta objected to adopting a "step" system for increases, but added that the personnel board should come up with a flexible merit system. Allison added that the FinCom would be reluctant to lock the town into such "automatic" budget increases which could not be absorbed within the limits imposed by Proposition 2 1/2.

Critical workload

The board of health administrator is now working more than the hours covered by her wages, according to Opolski.The board deferred a request for funding for additional in light of the town's "poor budget environment" this year but intends to ask for the increase in hours next year, Opolski said.

ConsCom has been unable to replace a secretary due to the low salary offered, and the administrator is seeking permission from the personnel board to recruit temporary help at the higher level of $12/hour, Lee said. ConsCom "desperately" needs more help getting work done. Members are frustrated about what is uncompleted, including management plans required by the state, maintenance activities for town land, and monitoring of major subdivisions, according to ConsCom Chair JoRita Jordan and member Carolyn Kiely.

FinCom members listened sympathetically and invited Lee, Jordan and Kiely to revise the budget to reflect the "true costs" of maintaining town land and managing the other work of the ConsCom.

More funds may be needed for O'Rourke water study

In other business, the board of health reported that additional funds of up to $20,000 might be needed to complete the study of water resources on the O'Rourke Land. The information is necessary so the town can complete negotiations for easements for a future water supply. Only partial funding was appropriated at the 1999 Annual Town Meeting, in the hope that by this coming spring it would be clear how much would be required to complete the study. However, the contract has been delayed for months so the amount needed to finish is still unknown, according to Opolski.


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