ROCKPORT — Employees of the town of Rockport earn less, in some cases far less, than counterparts in similar towns and many are being recommended for pay hikes in the next fiscal year.

The information is contained in a recently completed survey of 11 other towns that compared salaries for 28 positions. They ranged from select board members and town managers, planning directors, fire chiefs and finance heads, to custodians, cops, snowplow drivers, librarians and volunteer firefighters.

Of the 28 positions, 23 were found to be below the averages of other towns and are being recommended for salary hikes ranging from under a dollar per hour to more than $15,000 annually.

The survey was requested by Town Manager Jon Duke and a committee he convened. It is made up of Duke, a select board member, a budget committee member, representatives from the town’s two unions and the finance director. Results of the survey were compiled, analyzed and reported to Duke by Megan Brackett, finance director.

The nearly 50-page report contains recommendations from Duke which, if enacted by the select board after more review and discussion, will appear in the proposed fiscal 2023-2024 budget scheduled to be adopted by the end of June. That spending plan will also include the Social Security Cost of Living inflationary increases, or COLA, which this year hiked pay checks by 8.7 percent, according to Duke.

In a Nov. 22 memo to the select board, Duke called the survey a “helpful” sampling to set market rates for town wages. “In large part, this is about ensuring Rockport offers a competitive wage and my recommendation, often, is a gauge on where I think we can hire an employee to provide the services Rockport expects from that position,” Duke said.

Towns responding to the survey, which began in October, are as follows: Bar Harbor; Bath; Belfast; Boothbay Harbor; Bridgton; Camden; Ellsworth; Hampden; Naples; Rockland and Waldoboro. In all, 23 towns were asked to participate.

 

Rockport employees who care for the parks may see pay raises as a result of a survey of other towns. Photo by Jack M. Foley

Because not all positions in the responding towns coincide exactly with Rockport’s, and due to varying years of service by those in the positions, adjustments were made that resulted in weighted averages, for comparison. The job of town clerk is one example; some municipalities add to that position the duties of treasurer or registrar of voters, etc.

In other jobs, multiple levels exist within a given position, as with police patrol officers. For that job, there are up to 12 different categories, mostly reflecting years of service. The pay rate for each in Rockport falls below those of the other towns, according to the survey results. In several cases, such as rank and file police and firefighters, differences with other jurisdictions were noted in the report but no recommendations were made because salary scales are subject to negotiation with unions, according to Duke.

The town manager noted in written comments to The Camden Herald, which requested a copy of the survey, that nothing has been finalized.

“My recommendations are only that, they are only for consideration when I put the town budget together. No adjustments will occur in the midst of the year,” he said.

Here are some survey highlights based on Brackett’s analysis. They include Duke’s recommendations that in some cases are for new salaries that are higher than the average of the other towns.

The biggest salary hike recommended by the town manager would go to Finance Director Brackett. Her current salary of $78,770 would rise to $94,209 under Duke’s proposal.

Select board chair: Rockport pays a stipend of $1,500 per year. The average for other towns is $2,585. Duke recommends a hike to $2,500.

Select board members receive $1,000 per year, which is below the average of $1,286. Duke recommends a hike to $2,000.

Rockport’s Planning and Community Development Director earns $80,954, which is $3,290 below the average. The recommended salary for the position is $84,244.

Police sergeants in Rockport earn on average $6.33 per hour less than counterparts in the other 11 communities. Wage increases would be a product of union negotiation. For the various categories of police patrol officers, average wages range from $3.65 per hour to $8.03 per hour below those in the other towns. These also are worked out in town-union negotiations so were not the subject of Duke recommendations.

In the fire department, the Rockport chief at $79,061 is under the average by $17,158. That position is in line for a salary of $89,061 under Duke’s proposal.

 

The Rockland harbormaster position is among many targeted for a salary hike. Photo by Jack M. Foley

The harbormaster position would also see a hike. Currently $12,553 below the average, the recommended salary is $65,000 compared to the current $58,094.

The below average public works director salary of $83,283 would be increased to $91,000 under the Duke plan.

For the position of heavy equipment/plow operators, five of the eight categories, all based on years of service ranging from a new hire to 45 years with the town, earn less than drivers in the other towns. Their wages also are subject to union negotiations.

Finally, the under-average library director position is recommended for a hike to $74,000 from the current salary of $70,470 per year.