DALTON, Mass. – The finance committee began its review of the proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2023 on Wednesday evening and agreed that salary increases were warranted for many positions.
The city had commissioned a municipal employee compensation study last fall with the goal of developing a salary classification system based on benchmarking and recruitment and retention best practices.
“That pretty much reflects the paid study that was done,” City Manager Thomas Hutcheson said. “And I think you’ll find that there are a lot of salary increases this year because of the salary classification study. So those are the major changes to this budget.”
Departments reviewed on Wednesday included the town planner, tax collector, building department, postage and commissions.
The municipal collector’s budget is expected to increase by 5.88%, from $105,326 this year to $111,520. The increase is largely in salaries, which will rise from $92,061 to $98,255 at the tax collector and assistant step up on July 1. Expenses are unchanged.
The planner requested a budget of $52,644, up 3.79% from this year, with the only increase bringing the salary line to $50,544. The estimates will not change.
The Building Department also proposed an increase in its salary line of $41,112 from $40,214, a change of 2.23% from the previous year. There is no request for increased spending, which leaves it at $6,730 and brings the total budget for 2023 to $47,842.
The Traffic Commission’s budget request is the same as this year’s at $1,500.
It is proposed that Dalton’s postage budget be increased by 9.85% to account for increased demand for postage due to COVID-19, the closure of City Hall to the public, and the continued increase in postage costs, which would bring this total budget to $19,636 compared to $17,875 this year,
“It’s not a huge increase, but it does reflect both an expected increase in postage costs and the possibility that there will be more mailings to be done instead of delivering things to people in person due of COVID,” Hutcheson said.
The Department of Emergency Management requested a small allowance of 2%, from $6,000 to $6,120. This increase could double in the coming years.
“The director of emergency management has indicated that going forward the stipend is likely to increase because when he leaves it might be difficult to find someone for what he does,” Hutcheson said. “He was, of course, very conscientious and estimates that we spend 30 to 40 hours a month on emergency management, which if you turn it into an hourly wage is very, very undernourished. So he suggests to a point doubling the allowance and I say that as an indication of things to come maybe next year.”
The emergency management expense budget would also see a slight increase from $10,458 to $10,594, bringing the total budget to $16,714, a total increase of 1.56%.
The Dalton Development & Industrial Commission is not asking for any changes to the $1,300 budget, but committee members questioned the commission’s failure to spend a penny of its budget in fiscal year 2022.
“If that budget isn’t used, it becomes disposable money again. And if we eventually eliminate it, we won’t see it in next year’s budget, and it won’t show up in the budget process. next year,” said committee chairman William Drosehn. .
City accountant Sandra Albano explained that the position has not been used for the past two years because former city administrator Ken Walto left in August 2020 and the commission was not keeping track. meetings due to COVID-19.
“It had something to do with COVID, actually, because the meetings weren’t happening. So some of the expenses for this department are related to meetings,” she said. “So that could be what happened, and Ken was the chairman of that department as well.”
The committee also discussed the ranger, police department and communications budgets, but had questions about a number of items, so those budgets were deferred to the next meeting on March 9.