SCARBOROUGH — On June 30, the Scarborough Town Council approved changes to firefighter and dispatcher contracts that Assistant Town Manager Liam Gallagher said could save the FY22 budget up to $38,000.

A change to the wage scale and use of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act Premium Pay are some of the most notable changes to the town’s contract with the Scarborough Professional Firefighters Association, he said.

The group has agreed to defer the implementation of a new wage scale to Jan. 1, 2022, Gallagher said, which will result in savings to the Fy22 budget. The new contract will stipulate a cost-of-living-adjustment at 1.25 percent annually.

“I certainly would say that one of the themes that we’ve heard from the council, particularly with regard to budgeting, is this idea of predictable increases and more consistent increases and cost escalators,” he said. “A lot of these contracts, the way they were structured with their wage scales was 3 percent, 4 percent, 5 percent wage adjustments every two, three, four, five years.”

Gallagher said the ARPA funding will be used to recognize the efforts of staff who were working during the COVID-19 pandemic last year. A retroactive payment of $1.75 an hour for every hour worked during the declared emergency status totals $167,000 over a two-year period.

“This is a group we asked to show up every day and respond to positive or presumptive positive (COVID-19) patients through the course of the pandemic,” he said. “We think that that was worthy of some recognition and appreciation.”

The ARPA funding will allow for long-term structural changes, Gallagher said.

The ratified contract between Scarborough and the Scarborough Public Safety Dispatchers Association, which will last through June 2024, also has a revamped wage scale increase. According to a memo from Gallagher to the town, a retroactive ARPA payment of $0.90 per hour for every hour worked during the declared emergency status will total $33,000.

One of the reasons for the changes was due to staff retention, said Gallagher.

“Of our two existing employee groups, we really thought there was a compelling market argument for attraction and retention,” he said. “We did some wage analysis out of the gate. We found we were on the lower and actually lower than many of our competitors. Over the last few years we had lost some staff to neighboring departments because the wages weren’t where we thought they needed to be.”

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