Royalston’s FinCom debates proposed salary increases

Royalston's Finance Committee and other town officials met Thursday night to discuss the FY25 budget and a proposed Proposition 2 1/2 override to pay for a full-time police officer.

Royalston's Finance Committee and other town officials met Thursday night to discuss the FY25 budget and a proposed Proposition 2 1/2 override to pay for a full-time police officer. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 04-26-2024 4:08 PM

ROYALSTON – The Finance Committee Thursday night reviewed the FY25 budget proposed by the town’s Selectboard and offered a couple of changes.

The committee held off on making a recommendation on a proposed $75,411 Proposition 2 ½ override to fund the position of a full-time police officer. The Selectboard will make formal recommendations on all Town Meeting warrant articles, including the override, at a meeting scheduled for 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 30. The FinCom will meet on Thursday, May 2, to vote their recommendations on the warrant articles. 

While most of the proposed FY25 spending package met with the committee’s approval, some members balked at raises that were proposed for the Administrative Assistant Michelle Deline and Fire Chief Eric Jack. The Selectboard has recommended a 7% increase in the administrative assistant’s pay – from $24,700 to $26,416, and 13% for the fire chief – from $30,000 to $34,000.

Committee Chair Larry Siegel asked why these two positions were seeing such high pay raises when the majority of town employees were only seeing a 2.5% increase. Martin explained that Deline has assumed additional duties to assist the outside accounting firm hired by the town last year.

Siegel asked if Deline is working more hours as a result of this change to her role, to which Martin said she was not.

“Then she shouldn’t get paid more,” said Siegel. “You’re simply telling her what to do with her hours.”

“She had a set amount of things to do,” Martin continued, “and we added 15% more to do in that same amount of hours. Having someone do more with the same amount of time, we think we should pay someone more for the hours they are working.”

“Because of the fact there are no more hours added,” interjected FinCom member Jim Richardson, “picking and choosing and numbers out of a hat doesn’t seem fair.”

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Richardson made a motion recommending the raise for the administrative assistant be limited to 2.5%, which passed by a vote of 4-2, with one abstention. The committee’s recommendation would give Deline a salary of $25,317.50.

Martin also explained the Selectboard’s recommendation to increase the fire chief’s salary.

“There are four fire chiefs in this area that are part-time,” said Martin, “and this would put him at the top.”

Richardson again moved to recommend a raise of 2.5%, this time for the fire chief. Before the committee vote was taken, Martin added, “I will say, on (the chief’s) behalf, he has brought in over $300,000 worth of grant money. He is performing at a very, very high level. With him bringing more than $300,000 into his department, it seems like he should get more than 2.5%.”

However, the committee ended up voting 3-2, with two abstentions, to limit the increase in the fire chief’s salary to 2.5%. Voters at June’s Town Meeting will make a determination on which budget to accept – that recommended by the Selectboard or the one recommended by the FinCom.

The committee then discussed the proposed override. Martin explained that, “Two years ago we had 19 part-time officers; we have nine now. One is going away and we think we might – might – have one coming back. But it’s extremely rough.”

The committee voted to endorse the recommendations of the Selectboard and Police Chief Curtis Deveneau that the department’s salaries be level-funded at $100,839. This would cover the chief and officers, who are part-time. If the override fails, the committee said it could come back to the town and ask for approximately $20,000 more for wages. That amount would add enough to the line item in the FY25 budget to pay for one additional hour of coverage for each shift.

If the override passes, those salaries would remain fixed at a total of $100,839 throughout FY25.

If Town Meeting approves the override, it will then need to go before voters as a Special Town Election ballot question. The override would provide nearly $72,000 for wages and $3,500 for expenses – such as insurance – related to the full-time position.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.