SANDOWN – At their Monday, April 21 meeting, the board of selectmen decided against giving recreation director Deb Brown the raise the recreation committee was looking for earlier this year, a raise that the budget committee denied in the budget that went to voters in March.
According to discussions Monday, there has been some confusion since the institution of a default budget as to whether Brown should have her pay increased by $2.72 to $21 an hour. During budget season the selectmen approved of the pay request, but after approving it once, the budget committee ultimately denied the increase, keeping Brown in line with the rest of the employees’ 2 percent merit raises.
Despite the budget’s failure at town meeting, the selectmen recently decided to give town employees a 2 percent raise that had been included in the proposed budget.
The board was split Monday on whether to give Brown a raise from the $18.28 she is currently receiving (a number that includes a 2 percent raise this year) to the $21 an hour figure.
Town administrator Lynne Blaisdell explained that the budget workup that finance director Cheryl Eastman created had not included the increase to $21.
Selectmen chair Hans Nicolaisen said that while at first he thought the raise should be given to Brown, further reflection had changed his mind.
Selectmen Jim Devine and Terry Treanor said they were in favor of the $21 an hour figure. Devine said that information given to the board by the recreation commission indicated that Sandown was paying under what surrounding towns were paying for the recreation director position and as such he was amenable to raising that pay.
Selectman Cynthia Buco questioned whether the pay of all of Sandown’s department heads had been reviewed alongside the recreation director’s pay. She said that should the selectmen determine that one position deserved an overhaul because of comparative salary, than all department heads deserved the same consideration.
Nicolaisen cautioned those selectmen who were in favor of the raise as to the likely response it would generate from townspeople, considering the fact that they voted against the operating budget.
“Because we already gave a 2 percent raise, $2.72 will raise some eyebrows,” said Nicolaisen.
Brown spoke to the issue as well. She thanked the board for considering the matter, adding that she knew it had been controversial and that she was also OK with a different rate. Brown argued that she had been promised several years earlier a pay adjustment but it had never materialized. She said she was fine with $19.88 an hour, as it was the sum she would be receiving had those earlier assurances been followed through on.
Whether or not the selectmen had promised a raise to Brown was a matter of contention during budget season among budget committee members and the recreation commission.
Recreation commission member and recording secretary Rebecca Upman spoke in favor of the raise, saying it was not fair that as a recording secretary she received only slightly less pay than the director.
Nicolaisen said Brown did a great job but that it wasn’t the year to be giving that kind of raise. He suggested the commission come back to the selectmen later in the year to again ask for an increase, and not wait until late in the budget season, as had been done this past year.
Eventually a motion by Devine to award the $2.72 an hour raise failed, with he and Treanor voting for and Nicolaisen and Buco against.
Selectman Steve Brown, Deb Brown’s husband, did not offer comment on the matter and abstained from voting.