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Selectmen weigh pay changes as they develop budget proposal


KENT—The selectmen have been hard at work developing their budget, meeting twice weekly in special sessions to look at ways to make the town more efficient.

First Selectman Marty Lindenmayer is adopting a bottom-up approach, looking at such basic issues as how departments operate and raises are assigned. Interviews with different agencies are being conducted to learn more about their daily functions and challenges.

One of his early proposals has been an adjustment in the way pay raises are determined. He would like to provide a 3 percent pay raise this year with an additional $12,500 line item in the Selectmen’s budget to fund additional raises later based on factors such as longevity, experience and performance.

“The cost-of-living increase this year is 3.1 percent,” Lindenmayer observed, “so that is a good starting point.”

Selectman Lynn Mellis Worthington said a salary change based on longevity is “interesting.” “I toyed around with what other things would cause us to change someone’s salary,” she said. “Obviously, changes in duties—in the past the selectmen tried to institute job description reviews so they would know if duties had changed. We need to encourage the different departments to give us data.”

Selectman Glenn Sanchez observed that last year, when inflation was high, a 4 percent raise had been granted across the board. He said he liked the universal increase. “If you change some more than others, it has to be crystal clear. It’s going to take a lot to get me to think about increasing one department salary more than others.”

The board bounced the idea around, discussing the timing of any change and what the criteria would be. “Mid-year raises are not impossible,” said Lindemayer, noting that there is not time in the current budget cycle to initiate a new procedure. He suggested that the sum be put in the budget to accommodate later adjustments. 

Sanchez said that a later review would allow the selectmen to hear what other communities were offering for different positions, although he observed it is not “apples to apples” and that salaries can be quite different. “How we make it equitable is a hard question,” he concluded.

“I do like the idea of trying to make adjustments as we get people to set goals,” said Lindemayer. “We have job descriptions and some of those need to be expanded. That would give us objectives for the year. We can ask the departments what they are planning to do. It’s a different approach, but I think it is fair. We might end up with no changes, but we have to meet with the individuals to make sure they are growing in their jobs.”

The Selectmen came back to the issue at their next meeting, held Feb. 12. Lindenmayer indicated he had received some pushback to the idea. “Change is hard,” said Worthington. “This would ask the employees to do something different, to have goals, and that is very different from what they have been asked to do.”

She noted that it would be difficult to base pay increases on longevity and performance this fiscal year because there would not be sufficient data.

Lindenmayer said first-quarter increases could still be made based on the interviews. “It’s not the way it would go forward forever, but we would have the goal-setting process.”

Sanchez noted that the Board of Finance might not agree with the change, but Worthington observed it is harder to effect change without a financial incentive.

Kathryn Boughton
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