Many Non-Union Town Staff’s Pay Below Average, Study Reports

January 18, 2024

A consultant has determined that about two-thirds of Bedford’s non-union municipal managers and staff “are below the average for their recommended salary range” when compared to more than a dozen similar towns.

Town Manager Matt Hanson informed the Select Board on Tuesday of that conclusion from a study by the Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management.

Hanson said he received the draft on Jan. 9, and the Select Board and Finance Committee are expected to get the final report before the end of the month “and may want to consider options to address the findings.”

The Select Board last month recessed the public hearing on amendments to the salary administration bylaw in anticipation of the report, and on Tuesday agreed to continue the hearing again until Monday, Jan. 29.

“There are some preliminary concerns that are going to take some time to review with staff,” Hanson told the board.

The salary administration bylaw sets minimum, mid-range and maximum pay ranges for department heads, managers, and other non-union employees. Hanson said his initial reading indicates that it would cost $200,000 to $300,000 for the first year if pay was raised to the average for everyone below that level.

“My intention would be to come up with a plan,” Hanson said; “I am going to talk about the results in individual meetings. The intent is not to do one-offs for all different people unless absolutely necessary. Corrections are dependent on how much money is available this year, and also on a holistic plan.”

Answering a question from member Shawn Hanegan, Hanson explained that the town normally undertakes salary classification comparison studies once every 5 to 10 years.

“The market in the past five years has changed a bit more than it has in previous years,” he explained. “Areas close to Boston have seen more demand for talent. Inflation and a few other factors have really changed things.”

He contrasted the process with collective bargaining negotiations with employee unions, which take place every two or three years.

Annual Town Meeting approves an appropriation known as the “merit article,” which gives the town manager an amount from which to allocate cost-of-living and merit pay increases to non-union employees, within the parameters of the salary administration bylaw.

Hanson observed that while the merit article provides the flexibility to “make immediate corrections,” recently “it seems like it has only been keeping up.” There may need to be “a systemwide correction on the general government side.”

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