I’m on forced vacation this week from the job that actually pays my bills (hint: it’s not this blog). Everyone in my company of over 6,000 was required to take the week off with pay as a cost-saving step. And as an additional cost-saving step, there will be no raises for any of us this year.
Chances are good the company you or your spouse works for is taking similar steps, or worse, laying people off. Which is why some at town meeting on Monday night wondered if town employees should be asked to make similar sacrifices.
Selectman Bill Boland argued they already are.
Based on the budgets voted in on Monday night, town employees will get raises next year, but for many the raises will be 1% less than previously expected. But more significant in terms of cost-savings, town employees will pick up the tab for 25% of their health care costs next year, up from 22.5% this year.
Boland said the changes in health care plans and costs negotiated two years ago will save the town about $100K next year. That savings combined with cuts in other areas meant the town could still give modest raises to employees.
But the focus for many was on the fact that town employees would be getting raises at all. A Pine Hill Road resident called the 1% decrease a “rather inadequate token.”
A Wolf Pen Lane resident decried what he called the “luxurious benefits” given to town employees. Boland acknowledged that good benefit packages have historically been used to compensate for the fact that government employees typically make less than private-sector employees.
“Many of you in this room have gotten bonuses bigger than a town employee’s salary,” resident Jim Colleary, whose wife worked for the town for many years, said.
But a Presidential Drive resident argued that these days “no one is getting salary increases regardless of the role they play in society.”
Another resident offered up an amendment to use the fiscal year 2009 numbers for personnel line items. Advisory Committee Chairman John Butler said using the 2009 figures would force the town to come up with new budgets that would likely include layoffs.
A vote on the amendment failed, and Town Meeting went on to approve all town budgets as proposed, including the planned salary increases.