BRUNSWICK — The town council voted unanimously Monday night to increase Town Manager John Eldridge’s salary 3%, from $112,000 per year to $115,360 per year. Eldridge has not had a raise in five years. 

The council has evaluated Eldridge over the last six months, John Perreault, council chair said, adding that 3% was “on the low end” but that they were “trying to be respectful of people in town” and not increase spending too much. 

Councilor Jane Millett called the vote a “no-brainer,” and Councilor Stephen Walker agreed it was “long overdue.” 

Councilors are also expected to vote on their own salary increase in the coming weeks, after Millett, who did not run for reelection, proposed an increase from the council’s current $2,000 annual compensation to $4,000 for councilors and $5,000 for the council chairperson.  

The council was expected to vote Monday but decided to wait to consult with the town attorney after amending the ordinance to include $4,500 for the vice-chairperson. The current council cannot set its own salary, so the change would take effect Jan. 1 when new and returning councilors take their seats. 

Councilors have received the same amount since 1980, when council compensation increased from the $1,000 set in 1970. According to Eldridge, if adjusted for inflation, councilors would make an average of $6,800 today. 

A handful of councilors estimated last month that they spend between 10 and 15 hours per week on council matters on top of their existing jobs. Monday night’s meeting alone lasted well over three hours and was followed by an executive session. 

Many have families with young children and need to hire babysitters, Millett said in an earlier interview, and the stipend is often not enough to cover even that cost. 

She also said she was disappointed that only two people were running for her seat in Tuesday’s election, and Walker and councilor David Watson ran unopposed in their own races. Kathy Wilson will be the only woman remaining on the nine-person council. A higher stipend might be an incentive for more people and more women to run, Millett said. 

Councilor Dan Ankeles said he plans to vote against the increase, arguing that it would be “spending to no effect.” He said he felt guilty about doing so “against my eight colleagues who I think the world of,” but did not think it would be enough incentive to bring more people on board. 

Councilor Steve Walker agreed and said it was “completely awkward” to discuss his own pay and that he wished the decision were up to the voters. He is concerned by the lack of female voices on the board, he said, but was not convinced the additional $2,000 offering would make or break a person’s decision to run. 

Councilor Christopher Watkinson, who pointed out he was just a baby the last time the compensation was adjusted, said he thought it could have an impact. It takes a certain amount of privilege to be able to afford to take time away from home or from work a certain number of nights per week or per month, and if the extra money could “broaden that sphere,” adding more diversity and more socioeconomic backgrounds to the council, it would be a good thing. 

Councilor James Mason agreed and said that while he is lucky to be able to afford childcare when needed, “others may not have those resources.” 

The diversity of the people who are making the decisions should reflect the diversity of a community, he said. 

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