TOWNSEND -- Under a recently signed contract, the town administrator will receive a $15,000 raise in fiscal 2014.

The raise is intended to bring the salary up to par with salaries in comparable communities, said Town Administrator Andy Sheehan, who currently earns an annual salary of $80,000.

"The board has been committed to addressing the wage inequalities in town," Sheehan said. A wage and classification study in 2011 examined the job descriptions and wages for most of the positions in the municipal government. "I know there were some fairly large (raises) because people were so grossly underpaid," he said.

"My position was deliberately left off. It could be looked at as self-serving," the town administrator said.

The position was funded $20,000 below the average for other town administrators in the communities used for comparison by Human Resource Services Inc., the firm that did the wage and classification study for the town. "The board wanted to rectify that. Obviously I wanted to rectify that," Sheehan said.

The selectmen were unanimous in approving the contract. A competitive salary would benefit the town in the future. "People will point fingers and say it's all about Andy. It's not Andy. Andy does a good job," said Nick Thalheimer, chairman of the Board of Selectman. "Down the road, if Andy were to go, we'd need to hire a qualified individual," he said.

"Somebody said to me, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys," Thalheimer said. The salary will increase to $97,850 in fiscal 2015 and $100,786 in 2016.

Although the salary for the town administrator was not addressed during the wage and compensation study, the job description was rewritten by HRS.

Sheehan described the new job description as cleaner and clearer. "The duties haven't changed; they are largely defined by the charter. The old one was kind of choppy and didn't do a good job of mirroring the charter," he said.

Shepherding the wage and classification study through Town Meeting in October 2010 was one of the first major things Sheehan did after he was hired in May. "Greg (Barnes, the former town administrator) mentioned we need to do something with wages. Everybody realized that we needed to address that," Sheehan said.

Sheehan mentioned other improvements that happened under his watch over the last three years. A new town website provides more content. Property, casualty and workers-compensation insurance went out to bid. Now, the cost is approximately $25,000 less per year and some coverage that had been eliminated has been reinstated.

The town assumed responsibility for the maintenance of the new library/senior center building a year and a half ago. The cleaning there and at town hall and the Police Department is done by a contractor.

Townsend achieved the state's Green Communities designation and, with it, $157,000 in grant money. Some has been used for energy audits on buildings and some will be used to fund energy upgrades.

Other improvements are underway. The Department of Revenue suggested an improvement to the financial software used by the town. The request has gone to the Capital Planning Committee and will be on the warrant for the spring Town Meeting.

Sheehan's new salary will also be part of that Town Meeting. "I don't know if it's going to be a hot button issue or not. I negotiated in good faith with the board," he said, "The plan is to stay."