Poll workers at the Flanagan Community Center in Rockland said they’ve had a steady stream of voters Tuesday morning, with a line only forming once, around 8 a.m. prior to polls opening. Credit: Lauren Abbate / BDN

ROCKLAND, Maine ― Voters here approved a ballot measure Tuesday that will gradually increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The measure, put forth by the city council, was approved by a vote of 2,312 to 1,209. Supporters felt that the wage increase was needed to offer Rockland workers a livable wage. However, many in the business community felt it would be detrimental.

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Currently, the minimum wage in Maine is $12 an hour, and is set to increase to $12.15 an hour on Jan. 1 as part of an annual increase tied to changes in the cost of living. Maine’s minimum wage has increased from $7.50 in 2016 because of a statewide ballot referendum passed by voters that year that incrementally increased the minimum wage to its current figure.

The Rockland measure will incrementally increase the minimum wage locally, capping it at $15 an hour by 2024. The wage increase only applies to city businesses with more than 25 employees.

The measure was intended to help people working in the city “live healthy, fulfilling lives in the vicinity of where they work,” City Councilor Nate Davis said when he proposed the measure.

But some in the business community felt it would be a deterrent to development and an added hurdle for businesses that have already been hurt financially by the pandemic.

“Rockland businesses and organizations are facing the staggering economic effects of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, along with sharply rising property taxes and the upcoming implementation of Maine’s Earned Paid Leave Law. This simply is not the time to add another cost for local businesses already on the brink of survival,” Penobscot Bay Chamber of Commerce President Tom Peaco said.