While Bristol’s town council unanimously agreed on the town’s $48 million budget for the next fiscal year, they couldn’t agree on certain components contained within, namely, salary increases for non-union staff and department heads.
Going in to the town council meeting on Monday, April 8, when the council approved the provisional budget, council chairwoman Mary Parella thought the council had agreed in a previous meeting that a one and a half percent increase across the board was a fair compromise.
It wasn’t until councilman Nathan Calouro made a motion to accept the proposed initial budget that reflected salary increases based on merit, rather than a blanket approach.
“I was actually surprised that this issue was opened back up,” council chairwoman Mary Parella said of the discussion on April 8.
At a previous meeting, Ms. Parella fought for a 1.5 percent raise across the board as opposed to a swath of three to four percent raises as suggested by the town administrator, as well as some that spiked to 7.6 percent or more. The debate, she said, was that the union people are getting raises, why should non-union employees be discriminated against. Adding to the complexity is that the town does not have an evaluation tool in place to measure staff performance.
“We all want to keep good employees, but I think there’s a lot of pinch. We had to make a decision. Is it fair? Is it right? You can still acknowledge good work with a $1,000 increase. I had actually said why don’t we not give a raise,” she said. “The fact is, they had a raise last year. We’ve had this discussion from the last years. I think one, one and a half (percent) is fair.”
While Ms. Parella garnered the support of councilors Halsey Herreshoff and Timothy Sweeney for the 3-2 majority to approve the raises, councilmen Nathan Calouro and Edward Stuart disagreed.
“Ed Stuart and I brought it up that blanket increases did not make sense,” said Mr. Calouro. “I wanted it out there hoping to have some discussion,” he said. “I don’t think there should be an expectation to get (a raise) or not to get one,” he said of any employee.
The motion did not get a second, however, and died.
Mr. Teixeira defended his proposed salary increases, saying that he made his decisions based on discussions with department heads and personal observation of employees. At times Mr. Teixeira’s proposed raises offered more than what the departments asked for.
“If you have a department head getting one and a half while their staff are getting three, that’s not fair,” Mr. Teixeira said.
Mr. Teixeira said that he and town treasurer, Julie Goucher, did their due diligence to arrive at the salary increases he proposed. Throughout the budgeting process, he said they also looked over the past three years’ of expenses before making any salary decisions.
He feels confident that the raises he proposed are fairer than what the town council approved. Further, Mr. Teixeira said that the council shouldn’t be involved in setting town employees’ wages.
“That’s my responsibility. Let me worry about that,” he said. “I was trying to be much more straight forward.”
Mr. Stuart said that the opportunity for discussion on the budget is still open.
“That’s what great about this process. If nothing’s signed
you can change things,” he said.
A public hearing on the 2013-2014 town budget will take place on Monday, April 22 at 7 p.m. at Bristol town hall. A final vote will be taken on Monday, May 6.