BRUNSWICK — Town councilors voted Monday to double council compensation from $2,000 to $4,000, with $4,500 for the vice-chairperson and $5,000 for the chairperson. This is the first raise for the council in nearly 40 years. 

The current council cannot set its own salary, so the change will take effect Jan. 1 when new and returning councilors take their seats. Jane Millett, the only outgoing councilor, proposed the increase last month in part to draw more people, especially women, to run for council. When she leaves in December, Kathy Wilson will be the only woman on the nine-member council. 

Councilor Dan Ankeles was the lone holdout Monday night, saying that “given how rough next year will be” with some of the projects coming before the town council, he could not in good conscience vote to raise the compensation. 

Councilor Steve Walker previously said he would be voting no, but said Monday he changed his mind. 

“We need more diversity on this body,” he said, and if the increase is the difference that would allow a young parent to afford childcare to join the council, it would be worth it.

Councilors have received the same amount since 1980 when it was raised from the $1,000 set in 1970. According to Town Manager John Eldridge, if adjusted for inflation, they would take home an average of $6,800 today. 

Councilors, many of whom work full-time jobs, estimated last month that they probably spend between 10 and 15 hours per week on council matters. 

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 suggested that anyone uncomfortable with the raise donate the additional money to charity, which Ankeles currently does.

The school board is also likely to see a compensation increase in the coming months, as members recently voted to support an increase to $3,000 from $1,500. The school board, though, will not pursue any additional pay for the chair or vice-chair. 

“We take turns sharing this role,” Chair James Grant said at the most recent meeting. “Everyone does a lot of work, I don’t see any reason for an imbalance.” 

Board member Sarah Singer said that some months, particularly during budget season or for building committee meetings, “there are times when you are attending several hours of meetings per week.” 

“I think it’s a lot of work, and I do spend a lot of money on babysitters,” she said.  

When Grant first joined the board in the 1990s there were about 10 meetings per year with a few workshops and maybe one committee meeting, he said in an interview. But those days have passed.

“There are some weeks when it’s four nights a week and two meetings a night,” he said. “The role has expanded as schools have become more involved.”

Plus, he said, the schools account for the majority of the municipal budget. 

“When the charter was written, the council was having twice as many meetings as the school board, so they were paid twice as much. I’m not sure that disparity is there anymore,” he said. 

Any changes for both boards are expected to go into effect in January.

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