The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 15, 2002


Wage initiative is Town Hall's top FY04 budget priority

As the Carlisle Finance Committee tries to firm up the outline of the FY04 budget, few numbers are more than educated guesses. At the FinCom's November 7 meeting, town admin-istrator Madonna McKenzie offered the exception, a detailed proposal for FY04 salary increases for non-school town employees under the Wage and Classification initiative.

Position and salary benchmarks

The Wage and Classification study, initiated by the selectmen two years ago, benchmarked the salaries and job grades of town employees with the salaries and job grades of employees in other similar-sized towns. The study indicated that most Carlisle town employees were underpaid and some of the positions were misclassified. Consequently, a Wage and Classification budget initiative was designed to fund the pay increases necessary for town employees to achieve parity with their counterparts.

Because of the high cost of this initiative, a decision was reached to spread the salary adjustment increases over three fiscal years. This would, in theory, spread the budgetary pain equally over the three years. The plan was to provide raises to employee positions assigned to grades 5 to 8 in FY03, grades 2 to 4 in FY04, and grades 9 to 12 in FY05.

Unfortunately, the process may not achieve the objective of creating three equivalent spending pools. McKenzie told the FinCom that there are 42 employees in grades 2 to 4. In contrast, there are only 14 individuals in grades 5 to 8, and only 6 people in jobs classified as grades 9 through 12. Furthermore, the individuals in job grade classifications 2 to 4 tended to have the greatest percentage difference from the benchmark grade compensation levels.

FY04 impact

McKenzie outlined the impact on the FY04 budget. The departments with the greatest number of employees in job classification 2 to 4 are the library, department of public works, and the council on aging. Consequently, these three departments will see budget increases directly attributable to Wages and Classification of $19,320, $18,396 and $7,064, respectively. There are six other departments that will receive Wage and Classification driven increases of between $1,030 and $3,276. Four other departments will have less than a $1,000 budget increase. The total for Wage and Classification items was $59,380.

The committee raised several issues in reviewing the Wage and Classification initiative. FinCom member Tony Allison stated that the process had not allowed the FinCom to see or understand the total increase associated with this initiative up front. He believes that town priorities should only be approved if the total cost is identified and planned for at the time the program is undertaken.

Member Deborah Belanger raised the concern that this initiative will not be completed in three years. She asked the town administrator if Carlisle's Wage and Classification initiative would be part of the "regular" budgeting process after FY05. McKenzie stated that she hoped that was the case, but only if Carlisle's wages and job classifications stay consistent with those of the benchmarked towns. If Carlisle's regular wage increases did not match those of the other towns, it might be necessary to repeat the study every five or ten years.

FinCom member Lisa Jensen-Fellows questioned the town staffing strategy. She wondered if the use of a significant number of part-time employees, versus a smaller number of full-time employees, is driving up costs. This could be possible due to either the Wage and Classification guidelines or the benefits and insurance associated with each part-time employee who works more than 20 hours per week.

A priority this year,

but not every year

FinCom chairman Larry Barton stated that Wage and Classification was a priority this year, but could not be a priority every year without squeezing out other initiatives. He asked the chair of the board of selectmen Doug Stevenson how the selectmen viewed Wages and Classification as an ongoing priority. Stevenson stated, "The board has not had a discussion on this issue, but we believe it is an ongoing process. Priorities will be reviewed regularly. We are committed to completing this initiative." Both Allison and Barton pointed out that labor is a huge percentage of the town budget. Greater visibility is needed if this will continue in future years so that the town can better balance spending priorities. Stevenson agreed and stated, "We can try to smooth the process."

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito