Granby officials debate merit pay
November 16, 2010
GRANBY – Town Manager Wally Baird called this year’s $7.8 million budget “benign” – spared of exciting changes.
“There is no borrowing money, no deficit situation what-so-ever,” Baird said, and the draft budget works to increase the general fund reserve, absent the town’s windfall of $800,000 in lost tax inventory the state recently returned to the town.
The town’s general fund expenditures are at $3.5 million.
But as the budget sits in draft form, with a projected Dec. 14 adoption date, the Granby town board appears split on details regarding personnel compensation.
Personnel expenditures amount to 41.13 percent of Granby’s budget.
A 3 percent merit salary benefit is being proposed at a town cost of about $43,000 to help prevent turnover of town employees and “reward them for what they do,” according to Town Manager Wally Baird. Baird said the town’s 23 employees are now doing more work due to cutbacks in former budget years and no raises have been given since 2007; even so, the town has not experienced any employee turnover in three years. The merit would apply only to employees who “earned it,” according to Baird, based on employee evaluations.
At Tuesday’s, Nov. 9 budget hearing, a few board members such as Greg Mordini and town citizen Rod Lock questioned whether the merit is appropriate, given the state of the economy and given the employment struggles in the private sector.
Lock also questioned the town’s 100 percent health insurance, life and dental benefits that could cost the town $354,000 in 2011. Some town members have traditional policies that are increasing in cost by 14 percent, and high deductible insurance costs are rising by 9 percent.
Lock along with Granby Mayor Jynnifer Pierro questioned if the town should put a cap on covering insurance benefits.
Yet the majority of town employees are on Health Savings Accounts with high deductibles, which the town has been encouraging by contributing $2,000 per year to employee accounts. Even with the town’s insurance subsidies, the town is saving about $58,000 a year from the transition to Health Savings Accounts, according to Baird.
Proponents of subsidized insurance benefits say they help attract superior employees.
Tuesday’s town board meeting did not conclude what direction the town may take in the 2011 budget in regard to increases in benefits.
In 2009, the town cut its employee staff by 5 percent and in 2010, decreased part-time employee hours. The town may continue its freeze on hiring in 2011.
Upon a request from Granby Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sharon Brenner for a part-time town assistant who would serve in the capacity of economic development and Main Street duties, town board members elected to hold off allocating $25,600 from the town’s downtown improvement fund for the position. Town board members agreed that the time wasn’t right to reinvest in the position, which, they said, would need to be filled for several years to really cultivate tangible results.
As far as capital projects, the town has budgeted $250,000 in chip and seal projects on Jasper, New Church, Grand Meadows, Topaz, Railroad Avenue and an extension of Jasper to Fourth Street. Also among expenses in the 2011 budget are a $75,000 line item for Agate sidewalk replacements, $25,000 for a Bobcat upgrade, a $38,500 police car with accessories, and a possible new $22,000 attachment to a town loader for street sweeping.
The Granby budget deliberations began on Aug. 24, at which time the outlook on the budget appeared grim with possible reductions in force and employee furloughs. But the town’s sales tax came through with a particularly strong July.
The town’s $800,000 windfall will be kept in reserves as a safety net as the town rides out the recession, according to town officials.