Monday night, after some discussion to the contrary, the Representative Town Meeting granted salary increases to the town’s nine dispatchers, the fire marshal, the police chief and the director of fire services of at least 2.25 percent for the next four years.
The RTM has full control over the salaries of aforementioned 12 positions, as they are non-union employees. However, First Selectman Dan Steward said the group, who follow what is known as the public safety wage schedule, have been following the police contract for more than 40 years.
“We’ve continued to follow that process (since it was installed), with no reason to change it,” Steward said. “These people are on the front line of our public service system.”
The RTM voted 15 to 4 to give all 12 of the employees raises, with Andrea Kanfer, Richard Muckle, Theodore Olynciw and Janet Smith the four members to vote against it. Muckle, Olynciw and Smith dominated the beginning of the debate on the issue, saying they couldn’t vote for raises in the depressed economy.
“I can’t keep giving increases in salary and expect our seniors to pay for it,” Smith said. “For a couple of years, while we are paying for the schools, we should work together as a team, as a town, suck it up and do what we have to do.”
But they were eventually overruled by others on the RTM, who said the public safety personnel work tough jobs with night hours and deserve the raises.
“These employees work 24-hours-a-day, around the clock,” RTM Moderator Tom Dembek said. “It is a fairly different type of job than an 8-to-4 job.”
RTM member Marc Balestracci agreed, who said he would expect tougher contracts for other employees, but not emergency personnel who work all hours.
“I think this kind of work takes a bigger mental toll on a person,” Balestracci said.
The RTM approved raises of 2.25 percent for the upcoming fiscal year, 2.25 percent for 2013-14, 2.25 percent for 2014-15 and 2.5 percent for 2015-16. The group will also pay the same percentage in its cost sharing for health care the next three years – 11 percent – with that number increasing to 12 percent effective July 2015.
The public safety schedule is one year behind the police contract, , and matches the raises in that contract, Steward said. However Muckle and Olynciw questioned why the employees do not pay more in their health insurance cost sharing when the cost
“I think it is very unreasonable to maintain this very low participation level,” Olynciw said.
The Personnel Review Board approved the salary structure in April, and forwarded it to the RTM. The overall increase of salaries alone, including steps, in the first year to taxpayers would be $21,000, according to Steward.
The average straight-time salary of the 12 people on the public safety schedule will be $63,793 in July, according to documents provided by Steward. That number will increase to $65,613 in 2013, to $67,877 in 2014 and $69,806 in 2015.
The salaries of dispatchers will range from $37,926 to $50,851 in July, with most at $50,851 because they are at the top step, Steward said. Those numbers will increase to $43,923 to $58,869 by 2015, according to the documents. They can also can work overtime.
The chief of police and director of fire services are currently both paid over $100,000 a year, and are salary employees.