November 1, 2014

Town employee salaries set for new fiscal year

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Consultant finds pay ranges “very competitive”

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

Town employees will see a 3-to-5 percent salary increase this year. The town’s pay system, according to a town-hired consultant, does not require any major changes.

The Selectboard recently approved a 3 percent cost of living increase for non-union town employees, according to Town Manager Rick McGuire. (Police officers are union employees.) Some town employees also received an additional increase based on their performance. McGuire said merit increases this year ranged from nothing to 2 percent.

At the start of each fiscal year, which begins July 1, new salary schedules are set for government employees. Town positions are categorized in certain pay grades. Each grade has a minimum and maximum salary. The town manager, for example, has a salary range of $58,131 to $83,532.

Each year McGuire does his own analysis of how Williston salaries stack up against comparable positions in Vermont. A salary survey published by the Vermont League of Cities and Town is his guide.

“You want to be able to attract quality candidates when you have an opening and retain quality employees once you have them on board,” McGuire said.

Roughly every five years, the town hires an outside consultant to ensure McGuire’s analysis is on target, he said. The town paid $3,600 to Gallagher Flynn Human Resource Services LLC for such a review this year. The analysis found most positions “very competitive,” based on a review of data from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, the New England Salary Survey, and a Vermont Department of Employment and Training survey.

“While the current pay ranges for many of the Town’s leadership positions appeared to be slightly less than absolutely comparable with their counterparts in their local towns in a first analysis, the pay for all of these positions is directly related to a town’s population,” the analysis says. “When this factor is considered, it is clear that their current pay ranges are very competitive.”

The consultant, Frank Sadowski, issued several recommendations. The finance director position, the consultant found, was not competitive with the overall accounting and finance market from which the towns might draw future candidates, particularly given additional responsibilities added to the position in recent years. The consultant therefore advised that the position’s pay grade increase from a grade nine ($44,963 to $64,592) to a grade 10 ($49,923 to $70,297). A similar concern was expressed about the town planner position. In response, both positions’ pay grades were upped, McGuire said.

The consultant also expressed concern about the ability to retain junior planners with a salary range of $32,014 to $46,032.

“Due to a relative shortage of Planner positions, it may be possible to hire a Planner into this grade with more experience, but it is also likely that they would leave for a position with a higher salary when one becomes available,” the consultant wrote. The town may want to consider creating a senior planner position at a higher grade level to help the town retain more experienced staff longer, the consultant wrote. No action has been taken on this recommendation at this time, McGuire said.

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