By M.E. Jones
SHIRLEY – Wages for MART drivers and dispatchers who work for the town under the auspices of the Council on Aging are split between the state agency and the town.
Thus, a requested upgrade for the MART employees would be only partly paid for by the town, and that portion is already included in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget, along with Cost of Living (COLA) and annual, job performance-based step increases for non-union town employees.
Due to severe budget constraints, those employees hadn’t had raises for three years when Town Meeting approved increases last year.
But selectmen at their meeting Monday night wanted more information before approving the MART employees’ raises.
Selectman Andy Deveau favored the request. “They provide a valuable service,” he said, and the requested raise would put them on a par with others. “I support the raise.”
Deveau said COLA increases were a small percentage of the requested seven-percent hike, with more than half based on annual step increases tied to performance evaluations.
But Chairman David Swain advised holding off until the classification process that places those jobs on the town’s wage and salary grid was complete. Besides, he said, drivers and dispatchers already received a raise earlier this year.
Based on those considerations, he did not favor the raises at this time, he said.
But Swain later changed his mind after learning that the raises were not as recent as he’d thought.
COA Director John Oelfke said the previous increase was not this year but last year. Approved in February, 2011, the raises went into effect July 1, “like everyone else.”
Swain then said he had “no problem” with approving the raises.
But Oelfke’s preference would be more like a blanket policy.
His recommendation was that MART drivers’ and dispatchers’ raises track those of non-union town employees as a matter of course and that step-ups on the wage scale are made annually based on performance reviews.
Unlike town employees, however, he said the MART employees’ anniversary dates are all recorded as July 1.
Personnel Board member Holly Haase explained that all other town employee anniversary dates correspond to individual dates of hire rather than a universal date of July 1, when the fiscal-year begins.
Selectman Kendra Dumont thanked Oelfke for filling out performance evaluations for the MART employees, but the anniversary date issue concerned her, she said. “How did everyone come to be hired on the same date?”
“My guess is they weren’t in the system until then,” Oelfke answered. “As of next year, the positions will be on the grid.” He did not say the anniversary dates would be adjusted.
Later asked for clarification on that point, Haase said MART employees are not on the classification document that Town Meeting approved this year.
As she explained the process, the COA must first submit job descriptions to the Personnel Board for review, after which they would be placed on the grid accordingly.
The selectmen voted unanimously to approve the requested MART employee raises this year, with step increases tied to job performance evaluations.