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Candia selectmen OK raises for town's employees

CANDIA - After selectmen voted 4-1 in favor, town employees will receive a 1.7 percent cost of living adjustment raise.

The increase, which will cost $14,699, will have no direct effect on the taxpayers, selectmen said. It will come instead from savings in existing department budgets. The adjustment will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

A COLA is a wage increase designed to offset inflation. As prices rise and wages decrease in value, COLAs attempt to prevent a loss in pay and keep the value of worker compensation at a stable level. The actual increase in the cost of living in the town through October was 2.2 percent.

Some took issue with the COLA. Selectman Amanda Soares, the lone opposing vote, called the COLA "unnecessary" and "ridiculous."

"Giving people money is an instant gratification. It does not necessarily mean they're going to work better, harder, and that they're going to enjoy their jobs better," Soares said. "Money is nice to get, but it doesn't last forever."

Several town employees who spoke, during public input, took issue with Soare's comments. Of particular issue to the employees were statements made by Soares at a meeting on Nov. 19 when the issue was first discussed. Soares described the town's employees as "replaceable," suggesting in turn that "everyone can have someone else do their job much better, much more efficiently, and for less money" and that no one was "entitled" to a raise.

"I hear the word entitled kicking around a lot. I think I can speak for a lot of the other employees: I certainly don't think anyone feels entitled to anything," said full-time Candia Police Officer Daniel Gray. "I think you're making a lot of arbitrary statements about the employees of this town, which aren't based on fact. When I read these minutes, I was completely discouraged, and I found it completely insulting."

Chief for Candia's volunteer Fire-Rescue Rudy Cartier echoed Gray's comments. "If you think about (favoring the cheaper worker), that's what happened to manufacturing in the United States. It's now all over in China. You've got employees that are being vilified in this town for no reason whatsoever. They should be congratulated, they should be thanked for what they're doing."

Gray and Cartier's comments were met with applause from the audience.

Soares stood by her comments, saying "you're always going to have someone underneath who who's trying to take you out and take your job. It's just the human race, I'm sorry."

Selectmen and residents in support of the argument also made arguments for retention, consistency, experience, and morale. Detractors argued that voters had rejected the last COLA when they voted down last year's proposed overall budget, and that broad raises without merit were "unfair."

Other area towns have a proposed COLA on the books, including a 4% increase in Deerfield, 3% in Epping, 1.7% in auburn, and 2.48% in Pembroke. Last year's COLA in Candia was the first in several years.

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