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TOWNSEND — Many Townsend municipal employees saw a wage increase on Jan. 1, the first in over three years.

The increases are based on a recent classification and compensation plan done by Human Resources Services Inc., Town Administrator Andy Sheehan said. Union employees and Sheehan were not included.

The study compared the wage scales in Townsend with similar communities like Ashby, Pepperell, Groton and Shirley.

“When we looked at it, their pay was all over the place,” he said.

Some employees were already paid a reasonable rate for what they do, “others went up several dollars an hours because they were so grossly underpaid,” he said. Some part-time library employees were only making $9.50 per hour.

At the last town meeting, voters appropriated $73,000 from the general fund, and $5,000 from the water department fund to pay for wage increases from Jan. 1 to June 30.

In addition to the new pay rates determined by the plan, employees will soon see another increase. “All budgets will be higher this years. We’ve instructed the departments to factor in a step increase for July 1,” Sheehan said.

Revised job descriptions for all employees were generated as a seperate part of the wage and salary study. Employees and supervisors received the drafts a few weeks ago Sheehan said.

Some employees have received job descriptions they feel are inaccurate and have not had work sessions to resolve the problems Finance Committee member and Administrative Assistant for the Board of Selectmen Carolyn Smart said at the Jan. 19 Finance Committee meeting.

“It’s the worst. I’m appalled. It’s been nonstop problems,” she said.

“I have heard from some people who are unhappy with the compensation and classification plan, but they appear to be a minority,” Sheehan wrote in an email.

Comments were due back on Jan. 13. After HRS has reviewed the comments and made changes, the job descriptions will be sent to the Board of Selectmen Sheehan said.

“The board will vote to adopt them or not adopt them and then that piece is done,” Sheehan said.

Another area affecting future budgeting is health insurance. The town has considered joining the program offered the Massachusetts Group Insurance Commission

Joining GIC would raise town employee’s share of their health insurance to 25 percent from the current 15 and would require the town to add retiree insurance Smart said.

Townsend is one of the few towns that does not have retiree insurance Finance Committee Chairman Paul Nicoli said.

Townsend recently received an actuarial study of the projected costs of offering retiree health insurance Sheehan said.

The study, done by KMS, looked at different scenarios in projecting costs.

If 75 percent of eligible town employees opted in, retiree health insurance could cost Townsend $100,000 ten years from now. In 20 years, the cost could be $400,000 Sheehan said.

Employees received a survey to gauge interest in offering retiree health insurance in their most recent paycheck and the results are still trickling in Sheehan said.

Some employees are interested. “The police have really been very hep on the idea of getting retirement,” Finance Committee member Andrea Wood said.

However, retiree health insurance would not benefit all employees.

Workers need to be on the town’s health insurance plan to qualify for the retirement benefits.

“There’s a number of people in their last 10 years who are not on insurance now,” Sheehan said and it might be hard for younger employees to know if they plan to remain as town employees until retirement.

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