Borough joint boards talk raises

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NAUGATUCK — The joint boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses considered wage increases for five non-union employees Monday night.

The increases were recommended by the borough’s salary review board in December, after the board compared pay for some non-union borough employees to salaries for the same positions in similar-sized municipalities in similar economic situations.

A recommended 9 percent raise for Assessor George Hlavacek dominated much of the discussions.

Hlavacek, who was hired Nov. 4, 2010, currently earns a salary of $55,000. The proposed increase would have brought his salary up to $60,000.

When comparing Hlavacek’s salary to assessors in similar municipalities, the next lowest paid assessor was in Newtown at approximately $68,500 a year. The highest paid assessor in the comparison comes from Darien and earns over $110,000.

Hlavacek was hired as part of a bargained package that included eight people retiring.

“Part of the deal involved replacing those individuals who retired at lower starting salaries. It also involved two positions coming out of the bargaining unit, one of which was the assessor,” Mayor Robert Mezzo said.

This meant that Hlavacek was no longer under the union agreement for receiving pay increases.

In the agreement Hlavacek signed with the borough there was no stipulation for any wage increase. He did not receive an increase last year.

Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi didn’t like the idea of giving out such a raise to someone who has been on the job for less than two years.

“I see a 9 percent increase and it just doesn’t sit well with me, and if it doesn’t sit well with me when I have intimate knowledge of our day-to-day decisions for the municipality, I know a taxpayer seeing 9 percent is going to be pretty outraged,” Rossi said.

The 9 percent raise represented a 3 percent merit raise and a 6 percent market adjustment raise.

Mezzo said he wasn’t comfortable with giving out a 3 percent merit raise because the union employees only received between a 2.1 and 2.5 percent merit raise.

After some discussion, the boards motioned to give Hlavacek a 2.1 percent increase to keep in line with the merit increases received by the union employees. The motion failed 9 to 7.

Mezzo explained when Hlavacek began he knew what the salary was and signed the agreement at that salary.

“I think the point is that he has only been in the job a short period of time. He knew what he was getting. So I think the consensus is, right now, zero,” Mezzo said.

Ultimately, the joint boards didn’t approve an increase for Hlavacek.

A few of the burgesses voiced concerns, since other towns pay so much more than Naugatuck, Hlavacek might take another position, leaving Naugatuck to train another assessor.

The boards also considered raises for Borough Engineer Wayne Zirolli, mini-bus driver Steven Cutler, human resource associate Carmella Rinaldi, and Controller Wayne McAllister.
McAllister cut short any discussion on a raise for himself.

“I’m not going to accept it anyway, so don’t waste your time,” McAllister told the joint boards.

McAllister, who currently earns approximately $89,000, has not had any wage increase in the past four years. McAllister also runs the school system’s finances, earning a stipend the Board of Education increased last year from $15,000 to $20,000.

Burgess Ron San Angelo pointed out that this would not be the first time McAllister has turned down a wage increase.

“Most of us don’t have any problem with raising his salary, but, as I’ve known Wayne in the past, he’s never accepted some other raises. It expresses the appreciation we have for all the work he does, but at the end of the day we’re not going to change a thing because he’s not going to take it,” San Angelo said.

In lieu of a raise, McAllister asked a favor of the joint boards.

“The only thing I ask is, when the replacement comes in, just pay him to scale,” McAllister said.

The joints boards approved a 2.1 percent or $1,780 increase for Zirolli, who currently earns nearly $85,000. The increase was to keep in line with what the union workers received.

The board approved raising Cutler’s pay from $13.39 an hour to $14.39 an hour.

Cutler, who works part time, has not had any increase in his wages for approximately five years. He is also not covered under the borough’s health insurance.

Mezzo said for both those reasons, he was comfortable with giving Cutler the raise.

Rinaldi, who makes $30,000, was also given a 2.1 percent or $360 merit raise.