North Adams Finance Committee Reclassifies Jobs For Budget Cut

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The Finance Committee debated which jobs are combined with which and ultimately passed a compensation plan Wednesday.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass — The Finance Committee voted Wednesday to recommend compensation classification plan that will consolidate selected city jobs and cut $15,000 out of the budget.

The plan will eliminate some positions and a pay and classification change will be given to the employees that have absorbed the new job responsibilities. The salary increases total is $13,000.

Committee Member Lisa Blackmer brought up concerns about the principal clerk for public services, who will receive the responsibilities of the assistant principal clerk, a part-time position that will be eliminated. She felt that more work responsibilities should not necessarily mean more pay.

“I don’t agree with giving job grades unless they are supervisory or needed education or training,” Blackmer said. “If you are just adding more tasks, welcome to the world.”

The principal clerk for public service will receive a near $900 pay increase. The eliminated part position salary was $16,300.

Administrative Assistant Michael Canales said he felt it was a fair level of compensation because the full-time clerk would be absorbing what the administration felt was a fair amount of new duties.

Blackmer compared the grade changes to the public sector and mentioned that job grade increases often come with qualifications and responsibilities regarding skills, experience and education.  

“In private industry, with job grades, it has to do with how many people you supervise and what kind of training you need,” she said. “You don’t change job classifications just because you happen to have more responsibilities.”

Canales said that the issue boils down to a more philosophical question whether or not compensation should be required for additional work and responsibilities. He said he thinks it is not completely accurate that private sector jobs ignore additional responsibilities and raises.

“We are making ourselves smaller and more streamlined while also rewarding the employees for the additional responsibilities they have taken,” Canales said.

Blackmer felt it would be better if the committee had more information about what new responsibilities the clerk will receive and what their prior responsibilities were.

Canales said that typically with such changes there would be written changes in the job descriptions, but the city has no specific job descriptions to alter. He said it would be easier just to hand out updated job descriptions and currently this means the judgment is purely based on what the administration sees.

“It is something that we need to correct as we go forward,” Canales said. “There should be specific job descriptions so when we eliminate a position and combine positions we should be rewriting those positions to include the additional duties the person has picked up.”

Blackmer said that the lack of job descriptions and clear policy have been an ongoing problem.

Administrative Assistant Michael Canales acknowledged that the city has a lack of written job descriptions.

“I know that it has been tough fiscally since this administration has been in office, but we have been talking about these issues for a long time and at some point we have to do something about it,” Blackmer said.

Canales said the city is in the process of creating an employee hand book that is being reviewed by the city’s lawyers and will be given to the council for review.

City Councilor Joshua Moran spoke at the committee meeting and said that the private sector and public sector cannot be compared and that not offering more money for more work could cost the city money because employees may leave.

“I tend to agree with the administration because they are seeing what the employees are doing, and they are the experts,” Moran said. “Yes, maybe they could give a little more information on what the role entails, but is worth losing someone and training someone else.”

Blackmer responded by saying that she is less concerned about the money but the principle. She also said that although private sector and public sector jobs are different there are still connections to pay attention to.

Other job classifications proposed to change because of added duties in the plan were the assistant auditor who will receive an additional $1,428, the principal clerk of the Building Department and Health Department who will receive an additional $3,778, and a Parks and Recreation foreman whose pay has been increased to the amount of other workers equal to his rank. 

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