There has been considerable discussion regarding pay increases for non-union employees. Two specific positions include the town clerk and tax collector who are looking for 6 percent increases, 3 percent now and 3 percent in the 2016 budget. Last year the town clerk put forth a warrant article requesting a 9 percent increase, which the voters rejected by a considerable margin.
This year there is an effort to accomplish it by moving line items around. The voters elect these two positions, as such, the process for wage increases is for the parties to include their proposed wage increases in their budgets, which are reviewed and approved by the Budget Committee, and then finalized at the deliberative session prior to a vote by the voters of Hampton. The selectmen have no role in the process.
We think that raises should reflect what has occurred in other departments, as well as the job market as a whole, so that they are in line and thus do not become controversial, as was the case with the town clerk. We would like to see wage increase requests included in the operating budget, factoring in people’s share of health insurance premiums in a manner and at a level similar to what has taken place with union and other non-union personnel. Trying to jam large increases as a form of makeup pay hasn’t and won’t fly with the voters.
Another practice that needs to be addressed is having raises occur April 1, consistent with the personnel policy and union collective bargaining agreements. Efforts to beat the system by having an increase at the latter part of the year, which then carries over and is included in the following year’s default budget may get a supporting legal opinion from the town attorney, but is unethical and an end run around the voters. The system should be open and fair. We think the budget process should be highly transparent so that the voters understand the issues and associated costs. We hope that any proposal related to the non-union salary study being conducted by the assistant town manager to identify any gaps in department head and other nonunion wages is included in the 2016 operating budget and does not involve an end run. Two principles govern; the raises proposed should be reasonable, so they will be accepted by the voters, and they should be timely and not jammed through into a default budget.
We are especially concerned that the selectmen need to exercise diligence in their administrative duties. The idea that the Board of Selectmen have given a salary increase in excess of 50 percent or $30,000 to one employee, but have no money for part time employees is blatantly unfair. In addition, the BOS have violated their own purchasing policies by awarding over $2 million in the trash disposal and hauling contracts to designated vendors resulting in a lawsuit that ultimately saved the town several hundred thousand dollars. These are egregious examples of sloppy oversight and/or cronyism. The taxpayers of Hampton can ill afford to have lazy selectmen and weak town administration, if the town expects to have a bright future.