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The Day – Old Lyme looks at how it’s paying staff

Old Lyme – A study of the town hall staff members found salaries are “somewhat competitive” with other towns but that inequities exist internally.

Among employees who work the town’s typical 30-hour week, the report from the Seymour-based Human Resource Consulting Group cited salaries ranging from $42,869 for some of the town’s administrative assistants to $92,462 for the first selectman. Some positions work more or less, like the finance director, paid $107,871 for 35 hours per week, or the social services director paid $20,467 for 12 hours per week.

The town paid $9,600 for the study out of $12,000 that has been allocated as part of a focus on updating job descriptions and ensuring salary competitiveness.

The report cited inequities within the town’s pay structure and said jobs requiring comparable minimum qualifications and responsibilities are not necessarily compensated at similar levels of pay. Salaries in the land use, assessor’s and building departments may need to be analyzed more to determine the extent of the disparity, according to the consultant.

The report found a $49,202 senior administrative assistant and $42,869 office manager in the first selectmen’s department made less than similar positions in other towns.

The firm held a virtual presentation of its findings for the Board of Selectmen last week. Cathy Diana, a member of the firm who conducted the analysis, said she interviewed 26 employees for roughly an hour each and updated or wrote 28 job descriptions.

Diana said the town should consider increasing the typical workweek like other towns with comparable demographics in the area. That would benefit productivity as well as recruitment and retention, according to the consultant.

She said it’s not so much that salaries are not competitive with other towns; it’s that officials should better align employees’ weekly schedule with “the work that they’re doing and the ability to get that work done.”

She cited a 40-hour week in Old Saybrook. Other towns run the gamut from 35 hours to 37.5 hours per week, she said.

Selectwoman Martha Shoemaker told those at the presentation that the increased hours are especially important in roles that serve the town’s growing senior population, such as the senior center director position held by Stephanie Gould, as well as the social services position.

“There’s a lot of work to be done for our seniors, especially those that are homebound and can’t get to town hall or don’t have access to a computer to pull up or print out a form they need to fill out for services ,” Shoemaker said.

Under Gould’s leadership, the senior center went from 300 members to more than 1,500 in less than five years. She has requested an additional five hours per week, according to First Selectman Tim Griswold.

At the time the study was conducted, Parks and Recreation Director Don Bugbee was a one-person department. He works 33.5 hours per week for $79,379, according to the report. “The department clearly warrants a second position to share the current workload, job responsibilities and supervision of seasonal staff,” the consultant wrote.

Selectmen in January approved a parks and recreation department assistant at 20 hours per week to start this month after multiple pleas from Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Bob Dunn.

The human resources report cited a lot of longevity among staff members, but said there are concerns about the potential for future turnover as employees choose to leave the town to take higher paying jobs or promotional opportunities with other employers.

“Hours may also need to increase seasonally since Old Lyme’s resident numbers increase substantially over the course of the spring/summer months,” the report said.

Griswold said the police and public works departments, which are the only unionized groups in town, have 40-hour weeks.

Griswold in a Monday phone interview said the next step is to hire a consultant – whether it’s the same one or a different firm – to make changes to the salary structure to ensure internal fairness and identify salary ranges to promote external competitiveness.

I have noted the 30-hour work week has been in effect “for quite a long time” and that it works well for some positions.

Diana in her presentation noted she observed a resistance to change in the town hall that manifests in justifications like, “We’ve always done it this way.”

She said that sort of thinking is very common in municipalities, “but it’s something you want to try to steer away from.”