February 24

Oakland manager proposes pay hike for some town employees

Eight town officials, including the police chief and head librarian, could get raises that put them more in line with same-sized towns.

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

DEPARTMENT HEAD RAISES: Oakland police officer Todd Burbank, left, speaks with Chief Mike Tracy, right, as Capt. Rick Stubbert listens at the department last year. Pay for the positions of Tracy and Stubbert and six others town positions could increase if a proposed budget passes that includes increases in salaries equal to towns of similar sizes.

Staff file photo by David Leaming

click image to enlarge

DEPARTMENT HEAD RAISES: Oakland Transfer Station Manager John Thomas beside flower gardens he planted at the Oakland Transfer Station. Thomas’ position is one of eight in town that could see a pay raise if a proposed budget is passed that includes wage increases for the employees that are currently paid at levels below other towns of similar size.

Staff file photo by David Leaming

Oakland employee pay hike: By the numbers

A proposal by Oakland Town Manager Peter Nielsen would give eight of the town’s top employees significant raises. Proponents say the raises are long overdue and would bring the salaries for those positions up to 92 percent of the average salary for the equivalent positions at comparable towns across the state.

 

Head Librarian Sarah Roy is paid $18.93 an hour. She would get the biggest increase, $9.46 an hour, to $28.39. The statewide average for that position is $30.86 per hour.

 

Assistant librarian Lisa Stevens who makes $11.05, would get a $4.95 increase to $16 per hour. The state average is $17.39.

 

Public Works Director Jeffrey Hally makes $25.11 an hour; he would get an increase of $4.25 an hour, to $29.36. The state average is $31.91.

 

Highway foreman Roland Cote makes $18.25 per hour; he would receive an increase of $2.52, to $20.77. The state average is $22.58.

 

Transfer station manager Johnny Thomas makes $15.55, and would get an increase of $1.88, to $17.43 per hour. The state average is $18.95.

 

Fire Chief Dave Coughlin makes $25.87, and would get an increase of $2.34, to $28.21. The state average is $30.66.

 

Police Chief Mike Tracy makes $29.85 per hour, and would get an increase of $1.47, to $31.32. The state average is $34.04.

 

Police Captain Rick Stubbert makes $24.77 per hour and would get an increase of $1.97, to $26.74. The state average is $29.06.

— Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287

Assistant Librarian Lisa Stevens makes $11.05, compared to a statewide average of $17.39. Nielsen’s proposal would include an increase to $16, also 92 percent of the state average.

The other employees covered in the proposal are:

• Public Works Director Jeffrey Hall’s pay would go from $25.11 an hour to $29.36, compared to a state average of $31.91.

• Highway Foreman Roland Cote’s pay would go from $18.25 to $20.77, compared to an average of $22.58.

• Transfer station Manager Johnny Thomas’ pay would go from $15.55 to $17.43, compared to $18.95.

• Fire Chief Dave Coughlin’s pay would go from $25.87 to $28.21, compared to $30.66.

• Police Chief Mike Tracy’s pay would go from $29.85 to $31.32, compared to $34.04.

• Police Capt. Rick Stubbert’s pay would go from $24.77 to $26.74, compared to $29.06.

The rest

Not everyone who makes less than the state average is covered under the proposal.

For example, police dispatchers make $15.64 an hour as compared to a statewide average of $17.61, while truck drivers in the public works department make $14.22 as compared to a statewide average of $16.17.

Nielsen said he would like to address these inequalities later if the economy continues to improve and voters are willing.

“I’m thinking to myself, if a truck driver leaves the public works department, that’s bad,” he said. “But if the director leaves, that would be much worse. I have had to choose some but not others.”

A few of Oakland’s employees are paid slightly above the state average.

The town assessor makes $32.91 compared to an average of $32.54. The code enforcement officer makes $26.07, more than the state average of $25.33.

The only town employee who makes significantly more than the state average is Recreation Director Eric Seekins, who makes $24.36, or $3.44 more than the state average of $20.92.

Nielsen himself makes $36.64, which is 92 percent of the state average of $39.82.

That comparison is what led Nielsen to push for a figure of 92 percent.

He said he determined no one should be working for the town whose pay is farther below average than his.

The proposal is being considered in the context of a town economy that seems to be coming back to life after years of recession.

Nielsen said some positive developments have already resulted in more money for the town.

“There are some favorable signs that I think allow us to make this initiative and I have some hope that people will see its value,” Nielsen said.

Excise tax revenues have gone up dramatically over the past year, while a new natural gas pipeline running through the town is expected to produce thousands in added revenue.

The town also benefited from a recent vote in the state legislature that maintained levels of state revenue sharing funding, eliciting a sigh of relief from municipal officials across the state who had been bracing for continued reductions to that program.

Perkins said the town’s economy is still too fragile to accommodate such large raises.

“I don’t think times are as plush as people are saying,” he said. “I don’t want to break the coffers just to help a few people out.”

Even if the idea does have merit, he said, town residents may not be in a position to fund it.

“I think times are tough for everybody,” Perkins said.

The total amount of the salary increases for a year would be $48,764, which would cost the town $55,664 once increases to fringe benefits are taken into account.

The budget also includes a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for all town employees.

(Continued on page 3)

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