It's not so much that the standards need to be updated, more so that they need to be created in the first place.
ACUSHNET — A consultant brought in to review the town’s employee classifications and pay scales reported to selectmen that those personnel standards don’t really need to be updated.
That has a lot to do with the fact that there are no personnel standards to speak of.
Alexandria Strapcynski of HRS Consulting of Andover recently delivered the first two parts of a three-part report on a recent study of the town’s personnel policies, pay scales, job descriptions, and performance review practices for non-union employees to selectmen.
In most departments, she found “no system existed to speak of” to set wages comparable to other employees doing similar work and regularly evaluate job performance, Strapcynski said. “Job descriptions were outdated” for most positions, lacking even basic Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) language that should have been added years ago, she added.
The town also lacks salary schedules that clearly indicate pay ranges for entry level, extended service, or long-serving employees, the expert reported. That has resulted in employees getting a wide range of pay for similar work, without any clear guidelines for longevity increases or performance bonuses, she indicated.
Veteran Selectman Kevin Gaspar wasn’t surprised at the findings, admitting that the town’s personnel policies could be considered “pre-historic” by some. The reports contain plenty of data and some good recommendations that the board can use to work on setting wage and job classification policies and procedures, he noted.
“It’s a great start for us... I’ll spend a lot of time studying this,” Gaspar told the consultant, holding up the hefty report.
Chairman of Selectman Michael Cioper agreed that the detailed review of all non-union positions would be valuable for the board and Town Administrator Brian Noble as they tackle the longstanding problem.
Strapcynski noted that the study collected information and based report recommendations on interviews with employees, questionaires, and reviewing proposed job descriptions with people holding those positions. Differing pay rates were compared to wages for similar posts in similar area communities, and to state averages to develop fair pay ranges for each employee level.
The result is a proposed wage schedule with multiple grade levels of town employment, recommendations for pay ranges, and job descriptions for all those positions for selectmen to consider in coming months.
A wage table, clearly detailing ranges of pay, and annual or periodic step increases based on longevity and job performance, should be among the first priorities, the consultant indicated. Such tables are now required by law, she noted.
Selectman Roger Cabral questioned the multiple-step idea, noting it’s “a government thing” that doesn’t really exist in the private sector. There, people are rewarded with raises for good performance and longevity, he noted, asking why town government doesn’t do the same.
In fact, more and more municipalities are shifting to “pay for performance systems” rather than step and level increases, the consultant said. By adopting pay ranges for each position, the town would have more flexibility for setting starting wages, and giving periodic pay increases to deserving employees, she suggested.
The pay range policy helps communities snag good, experienced candidates for key positions because there is room to negotiate the starting salaries, Strapcynski indicated. “This kind of system has a lot of benefits to it,” she advised.
State pay equity laws now “recommend” that each community have a formal wage schedule and job classification system in place; it is “required” at the federal level by the Fair Labor Standards Act, she also noted.
Strapcynski was also pleased to report great cooperation from the town employees that took part in the review process, soon to be extended to union positions.
“You really have some dedicated, hard-working people here,” the consultant said of town employees. “We enjoyed coming here.”
In other business at their June 5 meeting, selectmen reviewed a resident’s claim to the town for $551.24 in pothole damage to his vehicle, alleged to have occurred on Peckham Road in late winter. Such claims are infrequently awarded, when the claimant can prove negligence by the municipality in properly maintaining the public way.
Gaspar noted that he checked with the Dept. of Public Works, and found “no potholes were reported in that area,” a requirement of proof of municipal negligence, “so there is no liability for the town.” If there was a massive pothole on the road, “school bus drivers would have reported it,” since they drive along that road regularly, he suggested.
Cioper confirmed there was no police report filed on the alleged axle-busting incident, and joined his colleagues in unanimously voting to deny the claim for damages.