Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Vernon nonunion employees get 2.5 percent wage increase

By Suzanne Carlson
Journal Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 12:29 PM EDT

VERNON — Nonunion and permanent part-time nonunion employees will receive a 2.5 percent wage increase retroactive to July 1 following Town Council approval Tuesday.

The overall increase, which was approved unanimously, is the first for the group since 2008, though select nonunion employees have received other types of pay increases and bonuses in the interim.

Town Finance Director James Luddecke said he did not know exactly how many employees would receive raises as a result of the increase, but it’s around 37 or 38.

Assistant Town Administrator Peter Graczykowski said the overall budget for this group of workers is $2.4 million, so the increase would cost the town approximately $60,000.

Assuming there are 38 workers affected by the increase, the average salary of the group is just over $63,000. But some make substantially more than that, including Luddecke, who earns $106,291, according to the 2011-12 budget.

He also received a $6,378 bonus on July 2, 2010, and only a handful of employees have received such bonuses or “merit pay,” according to pay detail reports.

Public Works Director Robert Kleinhans, who received a 3.51 percent pay increase this year and makes $30,000 as director of school maintenance, for a combined annual salary of $125,358, also received a bonus of $5,721 on Nov. 24, 2010.

Town Administrator John D. Ward received an 8.33 percent increase in the 2011-12 budget and now makes $97,500. He received a $5,400 bonus on July 2, 2010.

Police Chief James L. Kenny, who earns $106,328, received a $6,380 bonus on June 25, 2010.

McCoy’s executive assistant, former Republican Mayor Diane Wheelock, earns $66,980 and received a $4,019 bonus on June 25, 2010.

Graczykowski received a 3.45 percent pay increase and now earns $85,501.

But Republican Mayor Jason L. McCoy was reluctant to discuss those bonuses and pay raises and did not elaborate when Democratic member and mayoral candidate Pauline Schaefer asked if anyone in the group already had received merit pay.

“Ever? Yes, of course,” McCoy said.

Combined, Luddecke, Kenny, Kleinhans, Ward, and Wheelock received $27,898 in bonuses in 2010.

Democratic member Marie Herbst said she was told that the increase for nonunion employees would be 3 percent, to which McCoy replied, “either I’m a cheapskate or that had to go toward the settlement of the other contract.”

McCoy blamed the lower increase on the 42 workers in the Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments who are members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 4 Local 1471, saying that delays in negotiations on their contract cost the town $113,000.

That expense was incurred when payment came due on the workers’ insurance plan and, McCoy said, union members stalled and could not be moved over to a cheaper health savings account plan as he intended.

“Had we done that earlier, maybe it would be 3 percent,” McCoy said.

There was $220,000 in the contingency fund when the 2011-12 budget was approved, and Herbst asked what has happened to those funds.

“We haven’t spent the money yet,” Luddecke said, adding that only about $28,000 “was actual contingency.”

The rest, he said, is tied up in merit pay and other increases that have been approved but not yet implemented.

Democratic member Michael Winkler asked why the increase wasn’t brought up during the spring budget process, and McCoy again blamed the public works and parks union, saying “those members didn’t care,” so he wanted to wait until that contract had been signed.

“If you’re concerned about budgeting and the taxpayers you would want to wait. … This was the best way to do it,” McCoy said.

Five Republicans were absent from Tuesday’s meeting: Daniel Champagne, Mark Etre, Judy Hany, Harry Thomas, and Sean O’Shea.

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