Nearly 50 of Nantucket’s non-union municipal employees are in line for a significant pay bump following the release of a new compensation study commissioned by the town that showed salaries lagging behind comparable communities.
Based on that study, which was authored by the consulting firm Segal Group, the town administration proposed compensation increases of up to a 4 percent raise, a one-time $2,500 “market adjustment,” as well as an additional 5 percent salary increase for those making less than $100,000.
The Select Board on Wednesday voted unanimously to endorse the compensation increases, and make them retroactive to Jan. 1, 2023.
“This is a much-needed adjustment, and pairing this with more attainable, affordable and accessible housing on the island will get us into a much better place where we’re not seeing so much turnover,” Select Board member Dawn Hill Holdgate said. “It’s hard to quantify the cost to the community of having that.”
Holdgate’s colleague on the board, Brooke Mohr, also raised the town’s high turnover rate as among the reasons why the compensation increases were necessary.
“Turnover is expensive,” Mohr said. “It’s expensive in terms of the time people are doing other people’s work to backfill…It’s really critical, both to show appreciation to our town employees, who work hard and accomplish a lot for our community, but it’s cost effective. Spending money saves money in the end.”
The town recently agreed to terms on four new collective bargaining agreements with the Nantucket police union (two units), along with the the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) representing Our Island Home staff, and the American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) which represents Nantucket’s DPW and Sewer Department workers.
On average, the town asserted, the increases for those four union groups, including annual cost of living increases and market adjustments, are somewhat higher than the non-union employee compensation increases. Sears, the assistant town manager, noted that union employees may also receive additional compensation for step increases, longevity pay, education incentives, shift differentials, and on-call pay, which non-union employees do not receive.
The Segal Group developed a pay structure in the compensation study for non-union employees that included 16 pay grades, along with minimum, midpoint and maximum salaries for each grade. The largest increases approved by the Select Board on Wednesday - the 4 percent salary bump plus a $2,500 market adjustment - are reserved for employees making below the Segal Group midpoint.
The compensation study was ordered by the Select Board and took the Segal Group more than a year to complete. The purpose was to ensure the town’s internal salary structure was aligned with the market, help address the town’s struggles with recruitment and retention, and identify paths for career progression within municipal departments.
The study compared salaries for similar positions in municipal governments in 12 other towns and counties, including Wellesley, MA, Martha’s Vineyard, MA, Aspen, CO, Montauk, NY, Falmouth, MA, and Chatham, MA.
The Segal Group evaluated compensation for approximately 256 union employees and 60 non-union staff members as part of the study. The town administration’s recommendation based on the study will apply to 49 non-union employees (not including staff from two enterprise funds - the Water Department and Nantucket Memorial Airport - or the public schools).
One notable shortfall of the study, which assistant town manager Rick Sears acknowledged during his presentation to the Select Board on Wednesday, was that the study and recommendations do not include a so-called “Nantucket Factor” (defined as a cost of living on Nantucket adjustment) due to the complexity nature of determining such an adjustment.
A few other observations by the Segal Group gleaned through its study:
• “Management has done an excellent job with entry to mid-level salaries; however, the more senior levels have been neglected”
• Some employees with many years of service, fell below the 25th percentile of the market comparisons
• Several interviewees referenced a “loyalty penalty”