Lincolnville selectmen voted unanimously, albeit reluctantly, on Jan. 11 for a zero percent increase in cost of living adjustments for town employees.

The vote followed a lengthy discussion about wage increases in a deep recession, and the initial recommendation of the town’s wage and personnel policy board to implement a 3 percent cost of living adjustment increase. Town Administrator David Kinney estimated after the meeting that the town will see approximately $12,699 in savings from the zero percent increase decision.

The COLA is a standard cost of living increase measurement to follow inflation.

The U.S. Social Security Administration sets COLAs, having done so since 1975 after congressional legislation provided for such adjustments in Social Security and supplemental security income benefits. Since then, the COLAs have ranged from as much as 14.7 percent in 1980 to 1.4 percent in 2003. The Social Security Act uses a formula for determining a COLA, which is generally equal to the percentage increase in the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers in a given year, according to the Social Security Administration. This year, the first time since 1975, the federal government did not increase its COLA, saying there has been no inflation.

COLA is there so an employee does not lose step with inflation, Kinney said at the meeting.

Lincolnville has used COLAs, as well as a step system that allowed for wage increases based on merit and job longevity.

“The goal is to keep someone’s purchasing power safe,” said Kinney.

Meeting in a classroom at the Lincolnville Central School, the selectmen noted the town also faced an 8 percent estimated increase in health insurance costs, as projected by the Maine Municipal Association.

Selectman Cathy Hardy said she did not know too many employees throughout the Midcoast who had received a raise within the past two years and that it would be hard to ask taxpayers to increase town employee salaries.

“In my mind, I would rather keep the benefits the employees have than have to make some unpleasant decision,” said Selectman Robert Plausse. “In all fairness, they deserve an increase. I would like part timers and [those receiving] stipends to receive an increase, too.”

“It’s not just a couple of people in town who did or did not get a raise,” said Selectman Jason Trundy, noting the ever expanding effects of the recession.

Trundy said he is employed by Waldo County, and while he received a raise, his personal contributions to his health insurance plan have increased by $70 each paycheck.

Rosey Gerry, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said he informally polled multiple businesses with five employees or more from Belfast to Rockland, and “only one business was giving a raise. Some have cut insurance benefits.”

Selectman Stacey Parra also recommended a zero percent COLA increase.

“This is the year,” she said. “I think our employees do a great job.”

Capital improvements

The selectmen heard a report from the 2010 Capital Needs Committee, whose chairman, Steve Young, delivered a list of tiered recommendations for funding. They follow:

Priority one

Fire department: The next new fire truck will be purchased in 2012 for approximately $250,000 to $300,000. A portion of the funding will derive from the department’s reserves; the remainder will come from the town. The current balance in the fire truck fund is $155,000. The committee recommends adding $20,000 in 2010 to the truck reserve.

Municipal building: The town office needs additions and renovations estimated to cost $600,000, the report said. The town has access to approximately $400,000 in capital reserves. The committee recommends setting aside another $50,000 for the town office building reserve and suggests Lincolnville explore borrowing the remaining amount needed to take advantage of low building and labor costs, as well as low interest rates.

Police cruiser: A new cruiser will be needed in 2012, the report said. The committee recommends adding $9,000 to the cruiser fund, which now sits at $14,800.

Road paving. The committee recommends applying $300,000 to the town’s ongoing resurfacing program.

Priority two

Recreation: Norton Pond swim floats, boat ramps, park improvements, tennis courts, Little League fields and fences, drinking faucets, and running track. The Recreation Committee is requesting $20,000 for year 2011 projects. The Capital Needs Committee recommends tucking away that amount.

Harbor: The Harbor Committee has proposed several projects, the report said, but did not provide cost information. The Capital Committee said it wants to see an overall plan for Lincolnville Beach to make floats and anchorage more accessible and user-friendly, and wants to see a plan for Ducktrap.

The selectmen agreed with the committee’s desire for plans and voted that all committees requesting funds via the Capital Needs Committee must create a five-year plan.

“If we are going to do things correctly, we need to have a five-year plan,” said Plausse. “It seems we are a little loose. We need to know where we are going.”

In other business:

Lincolnville is still seeking a Planning Board secretary to take minutes at meetings. The board meets the second and last Wednesdays of the month, and pay will be negotiated depending on qualifications and experience, said Kinney.

Of the 439 dogs on record in the town office, 133 have yet to be licensed for 2010. New this year, the state of Maine is sending municipalities a record of town dogs that have received their rabies shots, so the town office is aware of at least 50 dogs that have never been registered. The town office sent out a letter to those dog owners. Owners have until Feb. 1 to license their dogs at the town office before a $15 late fee kicks in.

The Lincolnville Winter Carnival is on track for Feb. 20 at Norton Pond and Breezemere Park. The committee heading up the event consists of Dave and Jennifer Munson and Tim and Erin Moody. Munson reported to the selectmen that he checked with Lake Warden Ken Bailey, who gave a green light for the committee to proceed with the carnival.