AYER - Compensation for certain municipal employees in the coming fiscal year is not clear, agrees Ayer Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand. Pontbriand sought clarification from the Ayer Finance Committee on June 13.
A June 1 compensation memo drafted by the Finance Committee to the Board of Selectmen outlines the "gray area," said FinCom Chairman Scott Houde.
The concern is that the committee presented Annual Town Meeting with a budget for Fiscal Year 2012 that included a $96,000 "placeholder" which was to represent any and all compensation, step or other pay or cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for the coming year.
However, on its first night on May 14, Annual Town Meeting approved steps for non-union employees - unfreezing the lock down on such increases that have been in place for the past four years. With the step increases, pay for some non-union employees will increase upwards of 3 percent.
On the second night of Annual Town Meeting on May 15, Houde had attempted to revisit the issue "to correct the departments that had inflated amounts." Houde's memo clarified for the selectmen that his committee remains unified in its belief that "employees should be eligible for their steps OR an increase within the 2 percent planned by the Finance Committee; not both." [Houde's emphasis]
Pontbriand said the confusion snowballed due to a "timing issue." To make timely payroll "a definitive decision is needed," on June 19, said Pontbriand. That
Pontbriand asked for Finance Committee members to consider attending the selectmen's meeting to "once and for all come to a resolution" on the issue. Another snafu was that the Personnel Board was not to meet until Wednesday, June 20. Pontbriand hoped to "somehow make that work" and have the Personnel Board in attendance, too.
"I'd like to hear from Personnel," agreed Houde. "We only have so much in the budget that is allocated for that."
On that and other budget-building issues, Houde reflected that there's a "lesson learned here" and that there needs to be "more communication ahead of time on what we can afford, who makes proposals, and who makes decisions on what."
"We don't want to usurp anyone's responsibility but we want to make sure we have a viable budget for the town," said Houde.
"I don't think you made any error in the budget," said Capital Committee Chair Mary Spinner. "But the Personnel Board in the past always came forward with what they recommended. If they were remiss in doing that, oh well, the budget's done."
Pontbriand clarified "I'm not making a judgment either way" on the Personnel Board. He stated again that he'd ask the Personnel Board to be present on Tuesday in hopes the boards can get "in synch."
On communications, Pontbriand said he and IT Director Cindy Knox were working on the creation of an electronic town wide calendar that tracks deadlines and hearing dates for town government business "so all boards will have it [calendar] in hard copy and electronic."
The "time frame was a little off this year," said Pontbriand of the budget bobble.
--WATER/SEWER SHUT-OFF POLICY PERCOLATING
To clamp down on water and sewer bill debtors, the Finance Committee discussed the need for a DPW shut off policy.
Houde said there are $77,000 in liens for unpaid water and sewer bills, with most due from a single account- the Kleenit Drycleaners at 44 Park Street. The total 'outstanding' water and sewer sum is $442,000 but Houde advised his peers to "take that with a grain of salt" since the May 29 bill date had just passed.
Regarding a shut-off policy for non-payment, Houde said new DPW Superintendent Mark Wetzel assured him that "he is working on one." That language is expected to be presented to the selectmen in late June or early July.
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