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    Monday, April 15, 2024

    Preston voters to be asked to boost first selectman pay by 10%

    Preston ― A proposal to boost the salary of the first selectman position cleared its first hurdle last week as the Board of Finance agreed to seek town meeting approval to increase the current salary of $87,057 by 10%.

    Selectmen Jerry Grabarek and Kenneth Zachem on Wednesday brought the request to the Board of Finance, arguing that Preston needs to offer a competitive salary for its top elected official, who serves as the chief executive officer in the town, to attract qualified candidates. The finance board approved the $8,706 request 5-1 with former First Selectman Robert Congdon opposed.

    The measure must be approved at a town meeting, a requirement for all elected officials’ salaries except registrars of voters, Board of Finance Chairman John Moulson said. If approved, the new salary would be $95,763. The Board of Finance also approved a $383 raise for the town clerk/tax collector position that also must be approved by a town meeting vote.

    “I think she’s been doing a pretty good job, and she should be paid accordingly,” Moulson said of his support for the town clerk/tax collector raise.

    The two selectmen initially made the request in March, hoping the raise could be part of the budget process, but the vote was put off. Wednesday’s vote came one day after no Republican candidate came forward to run for first selectmen at the Preston Republican caucus Tuesday. The caucus cross-endorsed Democratic First Selectwoman Sandra Allyn-Gauthier.

    Allyn-Gauthier plans to run for reelection and is expected to be endorsed Monday at a Preston Democratic caucus.

    While part of the argument was made for Allyn-Gauthier to receive a raise, if approved by a town meeting, the salary increase for the position would not take effect until after the Nov. 7 election.

    Republican Selectman Zachem said it’s the first time “in a long time,” that the town is proposing an increase beyond annual budgeted employee raises for the top elected spot. Allyn-Gauthier initiated a broad study of town positions and pay rates to ensure Preston is competitive among similar size towns in the region.

    The study is not yet completed, Allyn-Gauthier said. She hopes to have comparisons and proposals to adjust Preston employees’ salaries by late August. The approved town budget includes $50,000 for salary adjustments when the study is completed.

    Zachem said he and Grabarek made the request for the first selectman position independent of the study, and the money would be a special appropriation not part of the $50,000 budgeted.

    “We’d hate to lose her,” Zachem said, “because she really helps Jerry and me out quite a lot. She presents everything, it’s well documented. She’s doing a great job.”

    The two selectmen made clear that they are not asking for a raise in their positions. Selectmen currently are paid $7,914 each, including the 4% raise in this year’s budget.

    “Obviously, I’m very appreciative they are recognizing the job responsibilities and acknowledging the hard work that is being done here,” Allyn-Gauthier said. “And I do think the job responsibilities here are quite large.”

    c.bessette@theday.com

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