NORTH ADAMS -- The city's Finance Committee will recommend the City Council file a paper submitted by Councilor John Barrett III, which took issue with several items in the city's Compensation and Classification Plan.
Barrett's paper questioned the classification associated with Tourism Director Veronica Bosley's position, and the salaries reflected for city councilors and non-union employees in the compensation plan, as compared to the amounts allotted in the city's fiscal 2013 budget.
Barrett's concerns were voted on individually and the committee will make recommendations on each matter to the council.
The committee unanimously voted to recommend the council file the question regarding whether Bosley's position was correctly funded in the compensation plan.
Administrative Officer Michael Canales explained that under the city's ordinances, a newly hired employee must be brought in at the lowest step on the pay scale associated with their position. The ordinance allows the mayor to increase the new employee's pay level by one step, based on skill and competence in the position, after a year of service.
"When [Bosley] was hired, she was hired at the lowest level on the pay scale for that position. The director of tourism position starts at year four, because years one, two and three are blank. It's just the way the compensation plan is," he said. "The mayor was allowed to raise her a step in this compensation plan
Councilor Lisa Blackmer, a committee member, said she felt the ordinance was "straight forward," but may need to be looked at in the future as a means to make the city's compensation plan comparable to others in the state, many of which allow new employees to come into the compensation plan at higher levels based on previous experience and education.
"So the way this was done, there was nothing out of the ordinary?" Councilor David Bond, a committee member, asked, clarifying with Canales that nothing "funny," as suggested, was done when the increase was approved.
"It follows the current ordinance to the letter," Canales said.
The committee will also recommend the filing of Barrett's questions regarding the fiscal 2013 budget line items and the compensation plan not lining up for the salaries of councilors and of non-union employees.
Barrett has suggested that the compensation plan, as approved, does not reflect the intentions of the councilors, whom voted to take $1 in salary for a year, as opposed taking $3,000. Instead, he says it establishes the councilors' salaries at $1,500 for the year, which would only allow them to be paid $750 after Jan. 1, 2013, when the councilors will resume receiving their salaries. He has also suggested that because of this, the mayor has over-budgeted the councilors' salaries by about $7,000.
In addition, Barrett has taken issue with the fact that Alcombright budgeted raises for the city's non-union workers, which are not reflected in the compensation plan.
"It's an issue of semantics and not legality," Canales said.
He said the problem lies within the city's ordinance, which establishes the compensation of the council by calendar year, as opposed to fiscal year and prohibits changes going into effect before the end of the calendar year.
Canales said that the compensation plan reflects the $1 salary for the council from July 1 through Dec. 31 and then $1,500 for Jan. 1 to June 30, 2013.
"Nowhere did the council ever vote to reduce its salary. The council voted not to take if for a year. If you remember, I came back to the council and said that couldn't go into effect until January 1," Mayor Richard Alcombright said. "The compensation plan needs to reflect what is being paid out by the treasurer, not what is in the budget. We spent two hours going over this and several other issues with our external auditor last week."
Blackmer and Bond voted in favor of recommending the council file the issue, while Councilor Alan Marden, committee chairman, voted against it, saying he felt the council as a whole should vote the issue, not their recommendation.
Bond said he feels the council can vote on the matter when it votes to accept the recommendation in the committee's report.
The three agreed to word the report to state that "The restoration of the $3,000 councilor salary will take effect on Jan. 1, 2013, as the compensation [of elected officials] cannot be changed during the calendar year."
"I think it's clear the way we've written it and we'll defend it," Bond said.
As for the discrepancies between the compensation plan and nonunion employee salaries, Alcombright reiterated that the compensation plan is "merely a vehicle by what we say, as of July 1, is to be paid by the treasurer."
He said the budget, as approved, represents his intention to give raises of 1 percent for the year and 1 percent for the half year to those employees not covered by union contracts.
"The compensation plan did not reflect that because we have not enacted it yet," Alcombright said. "The compensation plan is consistent with the schedule in the treasurer's office. If and when we move it forward, which I hope to do soon, we will bring in a new compensation plan at that time."
Canales said if the raises weren't budgeted, the council would have to be presented a new budget along with a new compensation plan in order for the raises to be put in place.
The committee voted unanimously to recommend the council take "no action" on the compensation plan in regards to salaries budgeted for non-union employees.
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