LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen approved giving non-union employees a 1.5 percent raise, which is a compromise with the town manager.
The Selectmen had previously asked Town Manager Paul Sieloff to remove 2 percent raises for those Town Hall employees from the upcoming budget. Sieloff agreed but said he'd be asking the Selectmen once again to put them back later in the process. Later in the process came Monday night and the Selectmen ultimately agreed on 1.5 percent.
Sieloff said giving some level of raises is good management. It motivates employees and rewards them for the good work they've done. Sieloff said most of the employees in town hall are part time and doing exceptional work.
"Below 1.5 percent, I feel we are not really recognizing the employees," he said.
The Selectmen, however, are trying to cut the budget in any way they can. A mix of the new high school construction project and a dropping assessment value on the mall led to a drastic increase in the tax rate last year.
"We are driving ourselves right into a levy limit problem in a few years. If we don't start holding down our costs here, we are not doing our job. Why are we increasing all of these salaries without decreasing something else?" Selectman Robert Ericson said.
Ericson said while he was working at General Electric and General Dynamics he would go years without raises if times were difficult. Lanesborough is facing difficult times now and he feels the employees should do the same - especially the town manager who would also benefit from not only from the non-union raises but also his contracted 2 percent.
Sieloff is now in line for a 3.5 percent raise. That was part of the contract and Selectman Henry "Hank" Sayers said the contract was negotiated for a set salary, but that Sieloff agreed to phase that salary in over three years instead of taking a lump sum. That is why he is in line for 2 percent plus the cost of living raise.
"He helped us out because instead of one lump sum, he spread it out over three years," Sayers said.
Sieloff doesn't believe in giving separate pay raises for individual employees but rather keeping it simple across the board. At 2 percent, that would cost the town about $7,000, a total that is now a quarter lower.
"It is not like a $50,000 increase. It is only a 2 percent increase," Sieloff said.
The proposed budget is $11.4 million, an estimated increase of 3 percent on the tax rate. Most of that increase is because of the Mount Greylock Regional Middle and High School project, which is currently under construction. Sieloff said with the small increase in municipal operations, the budget still allocates extra money toward road repairs, guardrails, and long-term stability and other-post employment benefits.
"It is affordable. We really tried to be reasonable when it comes to budgeting knowing we want to invest in infrastructure and vehicles," Sieloff said.
The Selectmen, however, were still stuck on the salary increases feeling they weren't necessary. Sieloff ultimately cut his request down to 1.5 percent and that was agreed by all members of the board.
The budget now goes to the Finance Committee, who will vote on it on May 1. Then it goes to town meeting.
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