Southborough officials debate whether to expand IT department

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By Sara Brown, Contributing Writer

SOUTHBOROUGH – Continuing budget discussions centered on a debate over IT staffing in Southborough, April 6. 

As selectmen are still reviewing a variety of town departments’ budgets for the 2022 fiscal year, they emphasize that they’re trying to avoid headaches for taxpayers and employees during an already tough financial time. 

IT Department makes hire, considers other changes

The information technology department recently hired a full-time IT manager to fill a vacant position. That manager will be starting soon. 

In their budget, the team has also marked money for a part-time technician position that would work 19.5 hours-per-week. 

Individuals in town government have, over the years, debated whether to convert that existing part-time position into a full-time one aimed at keeping the IT department updated and meeting the demands of the town. 

However, town officials are now hesitant to make the change.

Town Administrator Mark Purple suggested that the Board should put more money aside for contracted services this year. That would give Southborough’s incoming IT manager flexibility to evaluate whether he actually needs extra hours from a technician. 

If he determines that is necessary, Purple suggested, the IT department could supplement its needs with contracted services for the next year. Then, it could request more money next year.

“I always get worried when we add new positions because they become embedded in the budget,” Purple said during an April 6 Board of Selectmen meeting. 

Town brainstorms price tag for new position

According to Purple, a new full-time IT position would cost the town an additional $60,000. 

Using contracted services, in comparison, would lower that price tag as Southborough would not need to pay full-time benefits to a new employee.

“This would give [the IT Manager] a year and [then we can] strategize from there,” Selectmen Brian Shea said, supporting Purple’s suggestion. 

Selectmen split on staffing debate

Like Shea, Vice Chair Lisa Braccio similarly liked the idea of at least temporarily using contracted services in place of a new position. 

“I am not ready to add another benefited position,” she said. “I think it’s imperative to get the new person on board and allow them the flexibility to decide what they think the department needs.”

Selectman Sam Stivers, however, disagreed. 

“I think the need is abundantly clear,” he said. “It seems to me to be prudent to get to two people as soon as possible. I would rather not wait a full year.”

He elaborated, saying, “The faster we get to two people, the safer we are in terms of the risks we are facing everyday here.” 

Purple defended his approach, saying it was the most “bloodless” one. 

“We are better off going this way [as opposed to] looking at a new position and saying it’s not what we thought it would be and now we are going to impact someone’s life and get rid of the position to move into a different direction,” he said. “ 

The Board of Selectmen will be meeting with the advisory committee next week to continue discussing the budget.