Swampscott Town Meeting made the right decision Monday night when members included a $30,000 performance-based bonus pay system in the town budget.
The system is designed to allow Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald to grant incentives based on performance to 19 town workers, including department heads.
To its credit, Finance Committee saw more pros than cons in the incentive bonus plan with committee chairman Timothy Dorsey aptly summarizing how the performance incentives create a culture of excellence in Town Hall that underpins excellent financial stewardship and management by town employees.
Town Meeting member William DiMento made the argument at Town Meeting Monday night that performance incentives set “a very bad precedent.” With all due respect to DiMento, we disagree.
Now is an excellent opportunity to give Fitzgerald the flexibility to give incentive bonuses. Swampscott has reached a plateau of town management efficiency and financial security that speaks to strong leadership and oversight.
Town finances are healthy with a cushion of security built into them. Swampscott’s elected officials have faith in Fitzgerald and made it clear they want him holding the town’s top job for some time to come.
It only makes sense to lead from the top and allow Fitzgerald to capitalize on his success and reward already-efficient employees in order to motivate them to become even more accomplished.
DiMento expressed concerns about town public safety and school officials following Town Hall’s lead and setting up performance incentive systems for firefighters, police officers and teachers.
Town Counsel Darren Klein took the air out of that balloon by noting that town employees working under collective bargaining agreements could not receive performance incentives unless the bonuses were negotiated. Public and private sector unions generally reject performance bonuses and the rewards they provide union employees in favor of across-the-board wage hikes for all employees they represent.
Swampscott is headed in the right direction and Town Meeting is to be commended for giving Fitzgerald the flexibility to reward excellence at a time when it is being demonstrated in Town Hall.