Warrant Article 44 on the 2018 ballot, which required voter approval of non-union employee wage increases if they are at a level in excess of the social security cost of living increases, passed by an overwhelming 2:1 margin. This was a citizen sponsored warrant article and logically it asked that the same approval process be accorded for non-union wages as are in force for union wages.
Subsequent to the vote, the Town Manager indicated to the Selectmen that the article was not legal and to the best of our knowledge there has been no further discussion by the Board of Selectmen. Frankly, we don’t understand why when it is the will of the voters, worst case, it should be considered advisory with the ultimate authority still resting with the Board of Selectmen. We cannot fathom why the disclosure of non-union wage increases have to be treated as non-public information, especially if the Board of Selectmen are seeking to be transparent.
We understand that the Assistant Town Manager commissioned a study by an outside consultant to assess wages, presumably comparing Hampton to other similar sized municipalities with similar organizational structures. We have heard some Selectmen express the opinion that some positions are under paid and we are losing people. We don’t quite understand why the taxpayer had to foot the bill for an independent study when the Selectmen have indicated that the primary role of the Assistant Town Manager is to work on personnel matters. It would seem that he could have conducted this study. But since this is moot and the study was completed it is important that comparisons be made that are apples to apples so the results are not skewed to create excessive increases. We think the comparative universe of the towns studied was not truly comparable, due to the fact that those towns on average have populations much greater than Hampton and 8 of the 11 have a council form of government in which voters have no vote on budgets. More importantly, the Selectmen need to have a discussion and make a decision as to how they are going to respond to the voters desire to be part of the approval cycle for non-union wage increases that was reflected in the vote on Article 44. Initially it appeared that the Selectmen were going to ignore the voters on the advisory beach smoking warrant article until Selectman Griffin showed some leadership in getting that issue addressed.
We hope that one of the Selectmen will show some leadership and speak-up on the issue of voter approval of non-union wage increases, rather than just approving them in a non-public meeting. We will be watching this quite carefully.