On Tuesday night, the Westford Board of Selectmen voted 4-1-0 to approve a minimum wage increase for employees of the town.
The move came in advance of the statewide minimum wage increasing to $10 an hour on Jan. 1.
Town Manager Jodi Ross indicated that despite the change, municipalities may opt out from the increase and the Selectmen would have to decide on their own whether to provide a similar increase to Westford’s employees.
Currently, only pages at the J.V. Fletcher Library and several seasonal employees with the Recreation Department would be impacted by the decision.
A similar increase was discussed as Massachusetts’ minimum wage jumped to $9 an hour on Jan. 1, 2015. Selectman Andrea Peraner-Sweet also supported that increase.
“I supported it last year, I’m going to support it this year,” said Peraner-Sweet. “I think that when workers across the Commonwealth are getting an increase in their minimum wage, it’s just a matter of fairness and it’s not fair that we exempt our own public employees from that. If it’s good for the goose, then it’s good for the gander.”
Selectman Mark Kost was the lone dissenting voice, also dissenting during last year’s vote.
Kost voiced concerns over how the wage increases would impact a current deficit in the Recreation Department budget as well as how large the fee increases would be for Recreation Department users.
“If it’s good for the goose, and it’s good for the gander, then it’s also good for the people who have to pay for it,” said Kost.
The wage change would increase the Library Department budget by just over $3,000 and the Recreation Department by just under $43,000.
Recreation Department Director Pat Savage told the Selectmen that she could easily adjust either way.
Any municipal employees currently at minimum wage would receive an additional increase to ensure they earn more than newer employees.
CORRECTION: Municipalities may opt out of giving the increase to their employees. Initially, this article indicated that municipal employees were able to opt out. We apologize for the confusion.