Adams Finance Committee Completes Review of Fiscal 2019 Budget
ADAMS, Mass. — The Finance Committee broke with Selectmen in declining to recommend at top salary cap of $95,000 after completing its review of the $15.6 million fiscal 2019 budget and voted to not approve the $95,000 town administrator salary cap.
Because of a concern over having a quorum throughout the entirety at a prior meeting, the Finance committee re-ratified some budget items Tuesday, however, did not vote to recommend the higher range for the town administrator's salary.
"We don't have really any opportunity to save money when we fill positions and I think we give out the wrong impression when we say we are willing to offer $10,000 more than the previous person," Finance Committee member Paul Demastrie said. "I don't think $85,000 a year is anything to scoff at and I don't think our town is in that dire condition that we have to throw money at it."
A vote to approve the town administrator's personal services budget failed with a 1-9 vote because a majority of the committee felt the $95,000 salary cap for the town administrator's salary was out of line.
The item was tabled at a past meeting and kicked to the Selectmen; that board, which hires the town administrator, stood by the $95,000 and felt the recommended $85,000 cap would limit their ability to negotiate a contract with the incoming town administrator.
Chairman John Duval reiterated that the Selectmen will not immediately offer the $95,000 and would offer a salary based on the final candidate's skills and experience. He said the town administrator screening committee will visit finalist candidates' communities and this will also inform what the Board of Selectmen will offer.
Duval added that limiting the salary right off the bat will only deter talent.
"Are we going to settle? ... This is the No. 1 position in the community and this is our leader," Duval said. "They make decisions that we hope will save us money and move us forward ... if we want to settle for a lower salary that is the skill and experience we are going to get."
Finance Committee member John Cowie felt steps should be built into the salary and the Selectmen should not just show their hand with such a high number. He added that with benefits, he thought the salary would be out of hand.
Interim Town Administrator Donna Cesan said capping the salary so low would not make the town competitive with so many professionals opting to work in more urban communities.
"We are in competition with all of the other communities in Berkshire County and beyond," she said. "We are not attractive to someone coming here that wants to advance their career."
Finance Committee member Jeff Lefebvre said he did not feel right paying an administrator that much money when the position only works four days a week.
Duval said although town hall was only open four days a week, the former town administrator was contracted to work five. He said the new administrator would be expected to do the same thing.
Finance Committee member Rachel Tomkowicz said she supported the higher salary but asked if there was a way to safeguard the higher amount. She suggested that if the Selectmen negotiate this higher amount they could come back to the Finance Committee for a reserve fund transfer.
Chairman Tim Burdick said he did not think it was an appropriate use of reserve funds.
Finance Committee member Craig Corrigan asked if there was a way to set a smaller salary for the first year and only pay out the full salary once the town administrator produces results.
Cesan said this is essentially what the Selectmen will set up in its negotiation and noted it was not the Finance Committee's responsibility to manage the Selectmen's negotiation process.
"That is something if you look in the past the Selectmen have routinely done and with all due respect, I do not think it is this committee's job to dictate that to the Selectmen," she said. "I think the Selectmen have indicated that they will be prudent in their negotiation of the contract and this board needs to entrust this to the Selectmen."
Lefebvre said he felt the town should investigate sharing a town administrator with another community or moving down to a part-time administrator but did acknowledge this would have to go through the lengthy charter review process.
Burdick said he felt the town was due for a charter review in the near future and was confident this would be part of it.
Although the Finance Committee did not give the budget item its blessing members did not change the number. Whether the budget passes with the $95,000 the Selectmen asked for, or the smaller number the Finance Committee opted for, will be up to town meeting.
The rest of the budget items were approved with little to no controversy and the budget will come before the committee again when they vote to either recommend or not recommend the town meeting warrant articles.
Tags: adams_budget, Finance Committee, fiscal 2019, town administrator,