Consultant hesitates on town comparison info


July 29, 2009
MOULTONBORO — While a consultant recommended that Moultonboro fine-tune some of the rules and philosophy of its pay structure and compensation plan, members of the Advisory Budget Committee asked instead for him to compare these items to nearby towns.

Gary Thornton of Thornton Associates conducted a study of Moultonboro's pay and compensation plans, along with job descriptions and evaluations - a "total comparison study." Thornton said that he met with town employees and reviewed records and personnel policies, and recommended that the town create some "clearer job expectations" and "delineate clear lines of responsibility and authority." He also recommended that the town change its compensation policy "we pay a competitive salary," since this was not unique to the town, and recommended a more specific policy.

In regard to specific comparisons of Moultonboro pay and benefits to other towns, Thornton did not have that information in his presentation, noting that when he had done so in the past, towns started "chasing each other," and instead needed internal equity.

"What tends to happen is that all the Lakes Region towns start chasing each other," said Thornton. "You need internal equity as well. That happened when I did studies on Meredith and Wolfeboro."

Some watching the presentation, including Advisory Budget Committee Chair Jean Beadle, asked for this information, in order to see how Moultonboro compared to other towns.

"From the information we received, it's hard to compare total compensation with competing towns and private industries," said Beadle. "We were hoping to see how we stacked up."

Thornton said that it was difficult to compare each specific situation to another in a different town. He used an example of two firefighters, one who might be on a spouse's insurance plan, and another who might have family health insurance from the town. Beadle said there were "still not a lot of variables," and asked for some specific numbers, noting that that was what the committee was looking for.

"Human nature says that they will move to what best suits them," said Thornton.

"But in the end, there is a compensation figure to work with," replied Beadle.

Thornton said he would give the committee that information, but cautioned the board, based on his past experiences.

"I went down this path with Meredith, and it created more angst and anxiety, causing all sorts of problems," said Thornton. "The philosophy should be, for these skills, we will pay this amount."

Selectman Betsey Patten said that the town may also compare with pay and benefits on the county level.

In other recommendations, Thornton said that the town should move toward some goal-setting with employees, and said that the pay step system generally rewards longevity in a position, rather than performance.

"I got from them (the sample group of employees) that they want to move to a performance management system, a shared goal system," said Thornton. "This can only be good for the town and employees, though it's a new responsibility on department heads."

Selectmen Chair Karel Crawford explained that the pay structure for Moultonboro was based on performance reviews, and that step raises were based on such reviews - and not every employee gets a step raise. If an employee is at the top of the scale, she said, they got longevity raises for being with the town for a certain number of years. Crawford noted that the town hadn't reevaluated steps since she had taken office.

Terenzini said the selectmen and the ABC could review more information from Thornton at the next workshop in August.

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