Vassalboro committee begins pre-town meeting budget talks

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Budget Committee members began their pre-town-meeting considerations at their March 3 meeting with a two-way virtual discussion with human resources consultant Laurie Bouchard, of LBouchard and Associates of Jefferson.

Bouchard explained the salary schedule she and Town Manager Mary Sabins have been working on for weeks. When select board members approved contracting with Bouchard almost a year ago, they intended to implement results of her work in the 2022-23 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2022 (see The Town Line, March 25, 2021).

Bouchard and Sabins developed a survey asking about other municipalities’ employees’ pay and benefits. Bouchard mailed the survey to 23 municipal offices; she got 11 replies. She tabulated and analyzed the answers and came up with a suggested plan intended to treat Vassalboro employees comparably with their peers.

As in the past, Vassalboro needs to play catch-up for some employees who are comparatively underpaid. After a basis is established, the plan Bouchard and Sabins developed calls for annual two percent pay increases plus annual cost of living increases. The two percent step increases would end after 17 years of employment.

Sabins estimates going ahead with the plan would add about $37,000 to the 2022-23 budget. She had already recommended a larger-than-usual six percent pay raise for town employees, because, as Bouchard commented, “compensation’s gone crazy,” with Covid, inflation and “everyone competing for a small pool of people.”

Budget committee members asked many questions clarifying the plan. They made no decision.

Select board members are leaning in favor of the salary scale, although they are waiting to see the whole budget picture, including the 2022-23 school budget request, before making a decision. Chairman Robert Browne told budget committee members $37,000 is a small piece of the total municipal budget and added, “It doesn’t make any sense to quibble about this [amount for salaries] this year.”

Budget committee members’ first action was to re-elect Rick Denico, Jr., to another term as committee chairman.

The committee is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 8, and Thursday, March 10, at the town office; Tuesday, March 15, at Vassalboro Community School; and Thursday, March 17, after the 6 p.m. select board meeting, at the town office.


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