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Where our tax dollars are going

March 5, 2011

This post has been edited since being originally published.

The town of Walpole should work to dismantle the town’s collective bargaining agreements and Personnel Bylaws and implement more reasonable compensation plans in their place. Selectman Chris Timson’s recent proposal to base annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), also known simply as pay raises, for municipal workers off of the fiscal conditions of the town, rather than have them be automatically mandated as they are now, is a good idea. Here are some other thoughts:

The Town of Walpole still has not implemented a pay freeze, even after the worst economic recession in generations, so most municipal employees will be getting raises this year. Eliminating raises for employees, including cost-of-living increases, would result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings. At a time when many in the private sector are still getting a pay freeze, raises are not the most prudent use of taxpayer dollars.

The proposed FY 2012 budget calls for at least $89,000 (not including the Walpole Public School budget) to be spent on longevity payments for municipal employees. Longevity payments are a little-known perk embedded in municipal union contracts and in our town’s Personnel Bylaws mandating that employees be given a bonus after working for a certain number of years. The perk is largely unheard of in the private sector, and yet the Town of Walpole has been handing these payments out for years.

This year, the town will be laying off teachers and the East Walpole Fire Station remains closed. Longevity payments should be eliminated.

Here is how the Town of Walpole’s longevity pay compares to two other towns in Massachusetts, Sharon and Freetown:

WALPOLE (some union contracts mandate even higher longevity payments)
After 5 years: $350.00
After 10 years: $450.00
After 15 years: $550.00
After 20 years: $650.00

SHARON
After 5 years: $325 ($25 less than Walpole)
After 10 years: $375 ($75 less than Walpole)
After 15 years: $425 ($125 less than Walpole)
After 20 years: $475 $175 less than Walpole)
After 25 years: $525

FREETOWN
After 5 years: $300.00 ($50 less than Walpole)
After 10 years: $350.00 ($100 less than Walpole)
After 15 years: $425.00 ($125 less than Walpole)
After 20 years: $500.00 ($150 less than Walpole)
After 25 years: $600.00

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