Voters are Town Meeting in Wenham next month may be asked to consider pay raises for town employees to bring them on par with town workers in similar communities.
An outside consulting firm has been hired to review average market salaries in order to make a more , said members of the Board of Selectmen during a combined meeting with the Finance and Advisory Committee on Wednesday night at .
Selectmen Chairman Molly Martins said Article 9 prepared in the warrant for will seek approval for spending a yet unknown amount for this year in order to anticipate for pay raises.
“We’ve engaged a consultant to conduct a market study of nine ‘cohorts’ with populations under 10,000 in order to review an average market number for each of the positions,” said Martins.
Martins made clear to the Finance and Advisory Committee members the purpose is not to give performance bonuses nor cost of living adjustments, but instead to determine how to bring salaries even with current market rates. If the findings determine there is no deficiency, then there will be no change.
Selectmen did not say which company they hired to conduct the comparison or how much it is costing.
In particular, the review will include the town administrator position. Other non-union workers include the town assessor, Council on Aging director, fire chief, police chief and town accountant. Most department heads and some other managers are non-union employees.
Martins said she expects to have the results of the study in hand by Oct. 31 and agreed to share the results with the Finance Committee by Nov. 2, if possible, because of the tight timeframe.
“We are tight on time [prior to Special Town Meeting], but the [Selectmen] wanted to share the thought process,” said Martins.
Fin Com member Jack Wilhelm asked Martins if the committee would be able to see the detailed numbers for any proposed pay raises in order to make a more informed decision. Martins was crisp in replying that the specific pay would not be divulged. Wilhelm seemed perplexed at the answer.
“So for the sake of example say the number is $42,000…what is the number comprised of?” questioned Wilhelm.
Michael Lucy reminded Martins and Selectman John Clemenzi that the salaries of town employees are public information.
FinCom member Ted Richard, most disturbed by the comment, said, “Is this usurping our advice and consent?”
Martins explained to FinCom members that the vote is to approve a lump sum and that specific pay figures are not part of that vote consideration.
Former Selectman Harriet Davis, who was looking on at the meeting, said Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren’s position is one of concern.
Davis has been critical of several occasions and during Chelgren's job review last year has the most pointed critique of his performance.
“Jeff came in 2002 earning just $63,000 with the understanding there was no clerical support," she said. "Now at $98,000, he also has added a full-time secretary."
In a side interview, Davis said it was surprising that one of the communities being examined as part of the comparison is Hamilton, which has a town manager. A town manager is different than a town administrator, she said, in terms of roles and responsibilities as well as experience and educational requirements.