GILFORD — Selectmen and the Budget Committee are at odds over proposed 2016 raises to nonunion staff, both for the town and School District. Traditionally, nonunion staff members have received raises equal to those called for in negotiated union contracts, but they may end up with less this year.
According to Budget Committee Chairman Kevin Leandro, the town's union employees are entitled by contract to a 2.5 percent annual raise. He said the Selectboard's budget included the same 2.5 percent for non-union staff but the Budget Committee voted to reduce the nonunion staff raise to 1.5 percent, lowering the total proposed town budget by $35,686.
"Our goal was to look at every line and reduce the budget as much as possible, Leandro said Thursday.
When brought to the attention of selectmen Wednesday night by Town Administrator Scott Dunn, Leandro was told by the selectman's representative to the Budget Committee, Richard "Rags" Grenier, that it was about the bottom line. He noted that only he and the School Board representative on the committee, Karen Thurston, voted against reducing the amount of the nonunion raises.
"(The Budget Committee members) wanted 1.5 percent maximum," said Grenier.
Leandro said that with few exceptions — primarily department heads — most of the Gilford town employees are unionized. He added that this is the first year in a long time that Social Security is not giving cost-of-living increases and that the economy has not sufficiently recovered to give out 2.5 percent raises except where union contracts require them to do so.
Thursday night the Budget Committee made the same reductions for nonunion staff employed by the School District. According to Superintendent Kent Hemingway, the School Board approved 3 percent raises for all nonunion staff. He said that only the teachers are members of the teachers' union and their contract calls for 1 percent plus a seniority step in pay level, which averages to a total about 3 percent.
Leandro said that, aside from teachers, most of the people at the School District are not organized and Hemingway said the reduction to 1.5 percent raises for nonunion staff means a reduction in the bottom line of the proposed School District budget of $53,473.
Leandro said one of his primary personal concerns is that administrators in the School District are getting 3 percent raises, which was the same as the board's request for non-union employees.
"It's not that they are bad administrators — they're not," he said. "It's just that, for this area, they are at the very top of the average pay scales, according to information I got from the New Hampshire Municipal Association."
"Our goal is to treat everybody similarly and give them all a 1.5 percent raise," he said, adding it's obvious that the Budget Committee can't do anything about existing labor contracts.
Hemingway said Friday that at Thursday's Budget Committee meeting, lowering raises for administrators and increasing raises for the support staff was discussed but not acted on.
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