By Sara Brown, Contributing Writer
SOUTHBOROUGH – The Board of Selectmen and Advisory Committee are still working to address the needs of the technology department for the current budget season.
After a Board of Selectman discussion just a week prior, the Municipal Technology Committee recommended that both the Board of Selectmen and Advisory Committee not only have a full-time technology manager but also add another full-time position. They recommended the technology manager’s salary be roughly $101,000, with the second position paid at a rate of around $95,000.
The town recently hired a new technology manager after a five-month vacancy. But opinions remain split about adding that second position.
Municipal Technology Committee Chair Matt Probst supports such a move.
“We need a second position in this department,” he said during an April 13 selectmen meeting.
Advisory Committee Chair Kathryn Cook echoed the sentiment.
“Can we put money aside for consulting and know, if something happens with the IT manager, that the consulting firm can truly help us?” she asked.
Advisory Committee member Timothy Martel believes the town needs a second person in the IT department specifically to protect it from cybersecurity threats.
“There needs to be more sense of urgency with our cybersecurity,” he said. “We are going to be attacked if we don’t have security in-house soon.”
Many on the board, however, said they were worried about adding a second position to the budget before the new technology manager is fully able to understand the role and the department.
“I’m worried we are setting a course for him and undermining his authority to set his own approach,” said Vice Chair Lisa Braccio. “His needs are being assessed before he gets here.”
Braccio also said she was surprised that the second position’s salary is so close to the technology manager’s.
Town Administrator Mark Purple agreed.
“I don’t know why we would have someone managing someone making basically the same salary,” he said.
Others on the board want to put more money aside in the budget for contracted services instead of funding a second full-time position. They hope that would allow the new IT manager to figure out what he really wants for the department.
“I think the sentiment is to have an approach to protect us,” said Chair Martin Healey. “I think it’s critical where the IT manager stands on this.”
There are tax concerns, too.
“It’s been a tough year for the taxpayers at home,” said Braccio. “I get the phone calls from the taxpayers saying ‘I can’t afford any tax increase.’ I appreciate the need, but the taxpayers have a need, and I am going to support the taxpayers’ need more than anything.”
Selectwoman Chelsea Malinowski reminded everyone that the town auditor recommended to them to stop adding positions.
“If we want to do this, then we need to look at where we can take away from,” she said.
Healey suggested that the town do a phased approach for the second position. Instead of starting in July, the position could start in September or December to save some money.
“This is a terrible argument to have at Town Meeting,” he said. “We have to have a united front.”
Town Meeting this year will take place on Saturday, May 22.
Both boards agreed to discuss the issue further at the next selection meeting.