Rindge employee evaluations won’t be tied to raises

RINDGE — The Select Board has hired an outside consulting firm for $3,500 to help the town review department heads’ job descriptions and develop criteria for evaluating its employees. But town officials say there is no assurance that merit-based pay increases will be awarded to high performers following this year’s evaluations.

At a special meeting of the Select Board and the town’s Personnel Committee on Feb. 19, Don Jacobs of D.I. Jacobs Consulting Company presented his company’s proposal for how to achieve a new performance management system in Rindge. The process will include a series of meetings with department heads who will articulate their goals and objectives, evaluate how those goals align with the Select Board’s and develop a plan for how to best accomplish them.

Historically, employee performance evaluations in Rindge were tied to wage adjustments, said Town Administrator Carlotta Lilback Pini in an interview with the Ledger-Transcript on Feb. 20. But during the past four years, Pini said yearly evaluations have fallen by the wayside because wage increases were not promised.

Last spring, the outgoing Select Board voted to approve $46,104 in wage adjustments for 19 town employees, which were implemented on April 1, 2012. The $46,104 in pay increases were in addition to approximately $22,000 in raises the Select Board awarded to three town employees in 2011. A resident petition had asked the board to rescind the $22,000 in wage adjustments, but the board maintained that Rindge was at risk of losing its employees.

“Prior to these most recent market adjustments the last performance-based wage increases had been in January 2008. That’s when the town experienced its first default budget,” Pini said, adding that voters did not approve the town’s operating budget again until March 2012.

When it was time for department heads to complete performance evaluations of their employees in December 2008, Pini said they were reluctant to do so because there was no commitment from the Select Board that money for pay increases would be available in 2009. Those same uncertainties are still present today, she said.

Select Board member Roberta Oeser said Wednesday that she thinks it is good for employees to have positive reinforcement and develop strong lines of communication with their superiors. “And this isn’t just a one-way street; employees will be able to rate their superiors, too,” she said.

Police Chief Frank Morrill said Thursday that annual employee performance evaluations can build moral and strengthen professional relationships. But, he added, the board should have prioritized a town-wide employee pay study. “My concern is that there is a pay disparity that currently exists between Rindge employees and those in other towns,” he said. “Until the pay disparity no longer exists, the town continues to run the risk of losing talented, qualified personnel.”

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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