Board of Finance member Alan Wilensky, speaking as a member of the public, started the finance board’s budget hearings with a complaint about “ridiculous” salary increases for Waterford's elected officials.
“That was one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen,” said Wilensky, referring to the Representative Town Meeting tying salaries to the CPI-U. “I find this offensive as a taxpayer.”
Last year, the RTM tied all elected officials' salaries to the CPI-U, which takes into account the cost of gasoline and food, among other factors. The CPI-U increased 3.9 percent for next year, meaning the town’s elected officials will receive a 3.9 percent salary increase.
The elected officials who receive a salary in town are the First Selectman, the Town Clerk, the Town Treasurer, the Tax Collector and both selectmen. The amount of money to taxpayers is relatively small, but the increase “sends the wrong message,” Wilensky said.
The First Selectman is the lead negotiator for all municipal union contracts. Giving the position a 3.9 percent salary increase, when the town is demanding salary increases below 3 percent and concessions in health care, could be counter-productive, Wilensky said.
“It sets a precedent,” he said. “I see it hurting us during union negotiations.”
First Selectman Dan Steward disagreed with Wilensky after the meeting. It will have no effect on negotiations, he said.
“My salary is based on the CPI, I don’t get a guaranteed rate,” Steward said. “Two years ago the CPI was zero. When they get an increase, it is guaranteed.”