Rockland councilors may ask voters to OK pay hike

By Stephen Betts | May 15, 2017

Rockland — The Rockland City Council may ask voters to approve the first pay raise for councilors in 37 years.

Mayor Will Clayton raised the issue near the end of the council's May 10 budget review session. Clayton pointed out that it had been decades since councilors received a raise.

Councilor Valli Geiger also said that there should be an increase to a "decent amount."

Clayton suggested that the pay should increase to perhaps $3,000 per year for councilors and $3,500 for the mayor. The current pay is $800 for councilors and $1,000 for the mayor.

That pay was set in 1980, when voters approved revisions to the Rockland Charter.

The last time that a pay hike for councilors was proposed in Rockland was in 2002. In that year, voters rejected a charter referendum by a 1,419 to 715 vote that would have increased councilors pay to $2,000, with the mayor getting $2,500.

In Rockland, the mayor moderates council meetings, nominates members to municipal committees, works with the administration on setting agendas, and officiates at ceremonies.

Acting City Manager Audra Caler Bell pointed out that her mother -- Shirley Caler -- receives more than double what councilors receive for serving as a selectman in the Waldo County town of Waldo.

Councilor Ed Glaser said if the council did place a proposed charter change before voters, he would want it worded so that the hike would be phased in to prevent current councilors from benefiting from an increase. Clayton said, however, that if an increase were approved, it would take effect immediately and could not be phased.

The council did not decide on when or whether to put the question on an upcoming ballot. The earliest that voters could cast ballots on the issue would be in November, since the deadline for placing items on the June 13 ballot has passed.

At the Belfast City Council's Jan. 3 meeting, the city manager proposed creating a committee to develop a recommendation for raises for that city's councilors. The manager said it had been more than 20 years since Belfast councilors had received a raise. Belfast councilors are paid $1,000 a year.

He cited the number of meetings that councilors attend, as well as the amount of time to prepare for meetings and time spent talking with citizens for the possible increase.

Knox County commissioners receive $8,000 annually, along with an additional $750 for the chair. Commissioners received a raise last in 2016. Before that, the pay was $7,500, with the chair getting an extra $500. Camden Select Board members are paid $1,500 a year.

According to the U.S. Census, the median household income in Rockland has increased from $10,632 in 1980 to $53,889 in 2015.

Comments (8)
Posted by: Maggie Trout | May 15, 2017 22:09

I suppose writing, "Give it a rest." wouldn't be allowed.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | May 15, 2017 21:29

Audra Caler-Bell has done a fine job as acting City Manager. Now can see she must come by that naturally.

Image result for the apple doesn't fall far from the tree

Posted by: Maggie Trout | May 15, 2017 20:14

And it really ticks me off that Caler-Bell's mother's Waldo pay was brought into this discussion.  Not just giving comparisons with other municipalities, and what business is it of the ACM to throw in on this anyway, but the "mother" for pete's sake.

Posted by: Maggie Trout | May 15, 2017 20:07

I think it is worth discussion that Rockland have a fully-paid, full time, and resident-elected Council.  I think the money lost due to individuals not having enough time to examine documents, confer, etc., would not exceed more of a level of a full-time salary.  I also think that more residents would seek a seat if it was a position that paid, and, resident input would carry more weight - perhaps.  No guarantee.  But if there is to be a Charter change, then the entire Charter should be examined, with consideration of such changes as Council not acting as its own Board of Ethics; the possibility of a change back to the Ward system, a possible change to an elected paid Mayor, etc.  Otherwise, no. But it has been a very long day.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | May 15, 2017 15:54

The town of Waldo residents do not have all of the expensives that Rockland residents have to pay. Granted that the monetary reward isn't much for serving the City but then again most candidates claim they do it to give back to the community. If you really want to give back to the community donate your stipend to a worthy cause. I haven't really seen much happening here that warrants my property taxes being raised.

Posted by: Donna Culbertson | May 15, 2017 10:40

I can see a small raise but these amounts no. You wanted job so you ran .if you did not want it you should not have ran.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | May 15, 2017 07:18

Richard, Richard,  what about your raise that went to Medicare. I thought these citizens did this because of civic mindedness not money.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | May 15, 2017 04:39

Glad to see this being brought forward. Most ordinary citizens probably had no idea the sacrifice council members make to serve.

When looking at the $53,889 median household income in Rockland there must be a few doing VERY well since a large percentage of our school children receive reduced school lunches.

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