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New Ipswich

Raises likely, but method debated

Cost of living or merit increases possible

NEW IPSWICH — The town will be budgeting for a 3 percent pay increase for town employees, but whether the funds will be applied to all employees as a cost of living adjustment, or used for merit-based raises has not been decided.

During a meeting on Aug. 20, the board agreed to have town department heads turn in prospective budgets with a 3 percent increase in their proposed salary budgets. Town Administrator Roberta Fraser first asked the board whether she should instruct the department heads to reflect a cost of living adjustment, or COLA, in their employees’ salaries. While Select Board member Mike Conlin said he is in favor of giving out some raises this year, he feels it should be given to employees that have most excelled this year, rather than giving out across-the-board increases.

“I like the idea of merit-based increases.” Conlin said. It creates an atmosphere of competition in which employees find incentive to do well, he added. “This guy went above and beyond and was rewarded for it. If I work hard, I’d like to be rewarded for it,” he said. He said he’s always felt that the board should take input from department heads and yearly evaluations for wage increases.

Conlin suggested raising each department’s salary line by 3 percent, and leaving it to the discretion of the department heads as to who deserves increases. Not all employees would necessarily qualify for a wage increase, and a 3 percent increase would be the maximum per employee, he suggested.

Select Board member Ben Cargill said he is also in favor of merit increases, but he said he has his doubts about simply raising the entire salary line and letting the department heads use their discretion after the fact. He feels the department heads should come into budget season with an idea of what kind of increase they anticipate, or they need to adjust budgets as they make wage decisions.

“If you give them the money, they’re going to find a way to spend it,” he argued.

The board agreed that all town employees, including part time, should be eligible for a potential 3 percent increase, but that elected officials should continue receiving static stipends. The board agreed to approve a 3 percent increase in salary lines for town positions for the purpose of crafting the budget, and they will decide at a future meeting whether to use the funds as an across-the-board COLA adjustment or to have individual merit-based raises.

The select board is scheduled to meet next on Sept. 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the town offices.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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