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Dalton Select Board Votes in Favor of Town Salary Increases
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
08:50AM / Tuesday, January 25, 2022
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DALTON, Mass. — The Select Board on Monday approved a pay and classification report that recommends a raise in town salaries to be more desirable for recruitment and for retaining existing employees.

The report proposes a slight bump to a new position for all staff and a 3.75 percent increase for the fiscal year 2023 — which begins in July — and beyond. Two percent of that is a cost of living (COLA) increase.

It will go to the Finance Committee on Wednesday for review.

Select Board member John Boyle unsuccessfully motioned for a 4 percent COLA increase that would push the overall percent increase to 5.75 percent. Members of the board were hesitant to increase the study's metrics without further insight.

"I would like to see maybe 4, 4 1/2 [percent,]" he said in regard to the COLA increase. "I think it's time we recognize the sacrifices our town employees make."

The study was well-received when unveiled to the board earlier this month.

Since September, consultant Carol Grandfield of Municipal Resources Inc. has been working with Town Manager Thomas Hutcheson on a study that resulted in this recommendation. The goal was to develop a pay classification system based on comparative analysis and best practices for recruitment and retention.
 
This process included interviewing all of the town's departments.

"One of the things that I asked for in the request for proposals for this pay classification study to be done was the consideration of the average or 50th percentile of what towns made so that we would be right in the middle of what the comparable towns were," Hutcheson explained.

"And then I also wanted to recognize that, from my observations, just, you know, informed but unscientific. It seemed as though Dalton employees might be being paid somewhat less than other towns and so I asked for the consultant to consider the 60th percentile and the 75th percentile, now, coming down into the final stretch, we did narrow it to the 60th percentile, because I thought that the raises were sufficiently substantial to make a real difference."

In the recommendation is a pay classification plan that includes 13 grade levels with all positions and a new pay plan. It also includes increased steps, or incremental salary increases, for more regular raises.
 
The proposed plan has 16 steps with a range from minimum to a maximum of 30 percent. Grandfield said the town's current seven-step system includes holding steps that sometimes take two years to get to the next level.
 
The difference between the steps in the new proposed system and what is currently in place is 1.75 percent.
 
In the study, it was found that the salaries of several town positions are low in comparison to other communities. Out of the town's 63 employees, 21 are recommended to have their salary increased to meet the new Step 1.

In other news, the board also voted in support of sending out a request for proposals (RFP) for the town to assume operational control of the Dalton transfer station currently operated by Casella Waste Systems.

"Right now, we have a contractor, Casella, who runs the operational part of the transfer station and so how that would change is the town would do staffing, we would assume all of the equipment," outgoing Health Agent Jayne Smith explained.

"And instead have our request for proposal for the upcoming contract, which expires at the end of this fiscal year, to really be for hauling or hauling and disposal of solid waste and recycling and then the town would either purchase or lease the onsite equipment."

Smith said there are both financial and environmental benefits to this move. It was suggested by the Dalton Green Committee in 2019 and was recommended by the Solid Waste and Recycling Committee earlier this month.

Boyle was the lone vote against the RFP direction mostly because of concerns about unknown expenses in the proposal such as the cost of leasing equipment.

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