December 19, 2013TUFTONBORO — With the Dec. 10th, vote of approval by the Budget Committee for the Tuftonboro Board of Selectmen's financial administration budget behind them, the selectmen invited Donald Jutton, President of Municipal Resources, Inc. (MRI) to their Dec. 16 meeting to offer a wage and classification study proposal.
The suggestion came from the Budget Committee during lengthy discussions on raises for town employees. Selectmen proposed a four percent across-the-board raise, explaining that since 2009, employees have only received cost of living increases. At the same time, they've been contributing more to their health and retirement plans.
The Budget Committee approved the financial administration budget line with a narrow 4-3 vote, with Stan Janeczko, Bob McWhirter and Gary Chehames voting against it. Minutes reflect that members have expressed the desire for more objective data, and from the selectmen's perspective, a third party would provide a neutral, objective source for analyzing what type of process would work best for Tuftonboro.
Janeczko, McWhirter, Chehames and fellow committee member Tyler Phillips attended the presentation by Jutton, who readily answered all questions that came his way.
Jutton said that for around $5,000 (based on Tuftonboro's number of positions), MRI would complete the wage classification study, beginning with individual employee meetings to understand job content. He would then identify and gather information from eight to ten comparable communities in terms of similar tax bases and demographics.
He would also gather external information on the marketplace, assessing job availability and competition, draft position descriptions and develop a salary schedule.
Some communities, such as Tuftonboro, use automatic step increases, others base pay increases on performance, a process that he said is, "far easier to say than do." The question then is who evaluates.
Would a performance-based review system lead to reductions over time in the town's financial administration line? Not necessarily, answered Jutton.
"We want what is fair," emphasized Phillips.
"Fair, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder," responded Jutton.
An appeals/greivance process would also be incorporated into the system for employees. For permanent employees, part and full time, the buck would stop with the selectmen. For other part-time employees who work on an occasional time schedule, the department head would handle complaints.
Phillips declared himself to be pleased with the prospect of such a study and said he felt the town could benefit from it.
Jutton commented, "It is only as good as you're willing to use it" and added that the players, speaking of the selectmen, change.
Phillips elaborated that he liked the idea of having a transparent base from which to regulate, adding, " A clear procedure protects the town from frivolous claims."
"Would you include the hiring process, too?" asked McWhirter.
Jutton said it would cost an additional $1,000 to develop that material, and likened it to a Human Resources system, which includes myriad rules to protect the town. One example is the storing of all official records, not in various department files, but in one file cabinet The whole package, soup to nuts, said Jutton, would cost around $7,500.
McWhirter addressed the board with another question, which he said he hoped they would answer in the affirmative, of whether they would include the library and elected officials.
Board chairman Carolyn Sundquist said that the Local Government Center has clearly stated that elected officials are not included. As to library employees, Selectman Lloyd Wood said, "The library administration says it wants to be part of the system. They are already on board with that."
Selectmen and Budget Committee members attending the meeting indicated support for a wage classification study. The board agreed at the conclusion of its meeting that it liked Jutton's explanation of his service and looks forward to seeing his written proposal.