SALEM — The town hopes to save thousands of dollars by buying back unused sick leave granted to its more experienced employees.
Town Manager Keith Hickey said an agreement has been reached with the Salem Professional Administrators Association that pays members of the union a combined $170,896 in unused sick leave. Selectmen approved the deal earlier this week.
The agreement with the 21-member union is intended to save the town money by paying the mid-level managers now in exchange for not cashing in their sick leave benefits when they leave for other jobs or retire years from now, he said.
“We have been trying to reduce the amount of accrual time in collective bargaining units,” Hickey said.
Hickey and human resources director Molly McKean have sought to reduce town expenses through employee contract negotiations over the last three years.
That means bargaining with the unions to reduce the number of sick days that can be accrued. It also includes offering buyback enticements to the unions, reducing the overall amount to be paid to workers before they end their employment.
The $170,896 will be paid to 16 employees who accrued a combined 2,830 hours, Hickey said. Five employees opted not to participate, he said. The employees would be compensated at their 2013 pay rate.
Other communities across the state are taking the same approach to cutting costs as they juggle soaring budgets and personnel costs, according to Michael Joyal, president of the Municipal Management Association of New Hampshire.
That includes Windham, Londonderry and Plaistow, where town officials and union representatives have reduced accrual time.
Joyal, the city manager in Dover, said it’s helped his community control expenses.
“In general, it’s becoming more common in the last several years for municipalities to eliminate some of their liability in compensated absences that are supposed to be paid,” he said.