September 19, 2018
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Town reviews pay cap after 4 top employees find better offers elsewhere

Deborah McDermott | The York Weekly
Deborah McDermott | The York Weekly
Heather Ross sits at her desk at York Town Hall soon after starting work there for the planning and code enforcement offices. Ross left Eliot, where she was the codes enforcement officer, to take the job in York.
By Ralph Morang, Portsmouth Herald

ELIOT, Maine — The Select Board on Thursday debated why the town has lost four Town Hall employees recently, and salaries seemed to be the reason.

In the last three or four months, Town Manager Dana K. Lee said Code Enforcement Officer Heather Ross, Planner Emily Cole Prescott, Land Use Assistant Becca Lower and Administrative Assistant/General Assistance Administrator Melissa Albert have resigned.

Ross is now in York, working for the town planner and in the code enforcement office. Lower is the new Wells assistant code enforcement officer and Cole Prescott is going to Saco. Lee said he did not know Albert’s employment plans. Albert was with Eliot for five years, Ross four years, Lower one year and Cole Prescott seven months.

“Since we adopted the pay scale plan, we have lost four important workers of our staff,” said Select Board Chairman John “Jack” Murphy.

He said the board should consider a pay plan that would strike the “red line” (salary limit) top.

“Every one of the four members went to a nearby town with a new value above our red line,” he said.

Ralph Morang | Portsmouth Herald
Ralph Morang | Portsmouth Herald
Emily Cole Prescott

The pay plan has been effective since Dec. 1, 2017, and was based on a wage survey done in the spring of 2017.

Murphy called for making the pay scale plan more open at the top so administration could retain the most qualified and experienced workers. It would require looking at the town budget, he said.

Lee talked about staff morale and said from discussions with the staff, it is not so much the money, but the feeling staff have that they have a maximum value.

Murphy said Eliot in general is not a poor town. “The mil rate is lower than towns around us,” he said. “Maybe that should go up. Other towns are paying more for the same work.”

Budget Committee Chairwoman Donna Murphy said she spoke to some who left town. She said one took a job closer to home and one went to Rye, a bigger operation. She said there was no need to create higher salaries.

“I don’t think we need to burden the taxpayers,” she said.

The town of York has budgeted a $90,000 salary and benefits package for the position Ross now has. According to the pay scale chart supplied by Lee, her hourly wage was $30.84 in Eliot and the pay rage for the code enforcement officer begins at $24.55 and tops out at $28.99. There are 10 steps, plus hire and 6-month steps.

Lee said he would look into the pay scale and budget.

“Knowing that the board is open (to change) will help morale,” he said.

Select Board member Alex Orestis said there is no question employees are not valued and the board should take another look at salaries.

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