LINCOLN, Maine — The town’s 24 nonunion employees save taxpayers money, said Deputy Treasurer Melissa Quintella, who is trying to get herself and the 23 others a raise.
Their pay varies according to their jobs, and the positions range from police and fire chief to town office counter clerk. Entirely full-time workers, they get no cost-of-living pay increases or raises based on seniority. Nor do they get paid straight-pay or increased hourly overtime rates, Quintella said.
They get a merit pay raise that comes whenever town leaders want to pay it, one that functions more like a cost-of-living increase but doesn’t necessarily keep pace with costs, Quintella said.
“We save the town money because we don’t get raises automatically, only on merit,” Quintella said Tuesday. “Several town office workers qualify for MaineCare.”
That’s why Quintella and 10 of the other nonunion town workers urged the Town Council at its meeting Monday to accept the merit pay increase in Town Manager Lisa Goodwin’s proposed $6.85 million 2010-11 municipal budget. Among the 24 nonunion employees are four part-timers.
The budget calls for $12,000 in merit pay boosts, Treasurer Gilberte Mayo said.
“The town of Lincoln’s financial position has always been conservative, but all reports show that the town does not have excessive debt or bad budgeting practices,” Quintella told councilors. “Continue this conservative nature while at the same time keeping your employees happy and valued.”
Quintella read to councilors a letter composed by the 11 workers that argued for the merit increase, which under Goodwin’s budget would occur on Jan. 1, 2011.
Among the letter’s points:
• Effectively freezing nonunion workers’ merit increase while giving raises to the town’s unionized workers — police, firefighters and Public Works Department drivers — is unfair and bad for morale. All town employees “should be recognized as essential and valued.”
• Eliminating the merit pay increase will not balance the budget. Cutting services might do that.
• Town government’s reputation as a revolving-door workplace might be based upon employees who leave in search of “jobs with consistent pay increases and benefits that are consistent with the market.”
• Many union and nonunion workers at Lincoln Paper & Tissue Co. LLC, Penobscot Valley Hospital, Health Access Network, RSU 67 and the Lincoln Water and Sewer districts received wage increases this year.
• Most town department managers do more than one job, making them especially valuable and difficult to replace, while their nonunion status saves the town legal expenses associated with union contract negotiations and allows town leaders full flexibility in managing the town.
According to the Maine Municipal Association salary survey, Lincoln’s pay rates place town workers among the bottom third of municipal workers statewide, Quintella said.
The last merit pay increase, up to 2½ percent, came in January; before that, there was a raise of 3½ percent in July 2008, Mayo said.
Council responses to the letter varied.
Councilors Samuel Clay and Rod Carr felt the workers should get the raise.
Councilor Michael Ireland reminded the workers that they should be glad to have jobs, as many people are unemployed. His wife, Councilor Marscella Ireland, said she didn’t think a pay raise would be proper, given that many other municipalities, such as Old Town, didn’t offer any. Mrs. Ireland is a former Lincoln town counter clerk and tax collector.
Chairman Steve Clay, Samuel’s brother, said the workers made “a good argument” and have a right to feel upset at some councilors.
“They are essential employees,” Steve Clay said Tuesday. “The whole thing started at a budget workshop when somebody called them nonessential employees.”
He declined to say who. The council will consider and possibly approve Goodwin’s budget in a meeting at the town office at 7 p.m. Monday, Clay said.