CA: Selectmen debate IT staffing levels

As I’ve previously covered, tonight the Board of Selectmen and Advisory Committee will discuss the proposed budget for the next fiscal year. The discussion is sure to cover staffing levels for departments, including the IT Department. 

Prior to the 2020 Annual Town Meeting, Town Administrator Mark Purple pushed for the hiring of a full time IT professional to support the IT Manager. Selectmen only approved part-time hours. Initially, Advisory was pushing for full time. In the weeks prior to Town Meeting, Advisory members agreed to support the lower ask for FY20.

The Town had difficulty filling the part-time role over the summer. Then, IT Manager Tom Laflamme resigned in the fall. Recruiting his replacement took months. While a new IT Manager was (finally) hired in late March, his start date isn’t until April 19th. The level of staffing he’ll need for the upcoming year starting July 1st is still an unsettled issue.

Selectmen debated the issue last week. The Commmunity Advocated recapped the discussion of the split opinions:

As selectmen are still reviewing a variety of town departments’ budgets for the 2022 fiscal year, they emphasize that they’re trying to avoid headaches for taxpayers and employees during an already tough financial time. . .

In their budget, the team has also marked money for a part-time technician position that would work 19.5 hours-per-week. 

Individuals in town government have, over the years, debated whether to convert that existing part-time position into a full-time one aimed at keeping the IT department updated and meeting the demands of the town. 

However, town officials are now hesitant to make the change.

Town Administrator Mark Purple suggested that the Board should put more money aside for contracted services this year. That would give Southborough’s incoming IT manager flexibility to evaluate whether he actually needs extra hours from a technician. 

If he determines that is necessary, Purple suggested, the IT department could supplement its needs with contracted services for the next year. Then, it could request more money next year.

“I always get worried when we add new positions because they become embedded in the budget,” Purple said during an April 6 Board of Selectmen meeting. 

Town brainstorms price tag for new position

According to Purple, a new full-time IT position would cost the town an additional $60,000. 

Using contracted services, in comparison, would lower that price tag as Southborough would not need to pay full-time benefits to a new employee.

“This would give [the IT Manager] a year and [then we can] strategize from there,” Selectmen Brian Shea said, supporting Purple’s suggestion.

To read the selectmen’s split opinions on the subject, click here. Selectmen held off on voting on any of the budgets to hear Advisory’s recommendations. They may vote on some or all of the budgets to propose to voters tonight. (Click here for the agenda.)

Updated (4/13/21 12:51 pm): I accidentally left out the article link.

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the BOS just doesn't get it!
3 years ago

BOS: You still don’t get it!

The Town finally managed to hire Tom Laflamme and then worked him 24×7 for as long as he was on board. Take a look at the salary the Town was (is?) paying for this role. The word for it is: shameful. The role demands expertise across a broad spectrum of technologies.

Take a look at engineer salaries in the business world to see what the “going rate” is. Now compare that to the Town’s offer.

Looking back, at the time Tom was hired, two additional positions should have been opened and staffed to help share the burden of supporting technology across all Town departments 24x7x365.

As an alternative, a second full-time person should have been hired and at least one part-time person.

BOS: Ask yourselves whether it is important to having Town computer systems and data & communications networks up & running ALL THE TIME.

No? Then, continue along your current “cheapskate” path. It’s pennywise and pound foolish to staff with a contractor. They’ll learn the Town’s systems, realize a role in the commercial world is much more lucrative and less demanding, then leave.

Repeat indefinitely.

We’re in the 21st century now and most everything is done digitally.

Think of these IT roles as being on the same level as the Town’s Public Safety teams. These are Critical Infrastructure roles.

I’m certain staffing can be cut or hours reduced by a few roles in some Town areas/departments with less impact on the Town if needed to fill these important vacancies.

Am I getting through?

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