MACHIAS — A decision last month approving a 5.2 percent salary increase for School Union 102 Superintendent William Clark and his administrative staff could hamper wage negotiations under way with Machias school system teachers.
The decision, made in December at a joint meeting of the Machias School Committee and the Superintending School Committee for School Union 102, would boost Clark’s salary of $53,053 to about $55,812 for the next school year.
Superintendent of School Union 106 Richard Marx in Calais, who now earns $52,500, also was voted a raise in December to $55,200 for the coming year. Marx, however, receives a more comprehensive benefits package than Clark.
Joseph White, as superintendent of schools in SAD 37 in western Washington County, earns $49,799. In SAD 77, which includes East Machias, Machiasport, Cutler and Whiting, Ellery Bouchard earns $48,200.
Wayne Mallar and fellow budget committee member Richard C. Larson on Monday criticized the salary decision made by Union 102 representatives.
Mallar said his committee was never told of the meeting or asked for a recommendation. Whitneyville, Marshfield, Northfield, Wesley, Jonesboro, Roque Bluffs and Machias make up the school union.
Complicating the issue are the continuing negotiations between the Machias School Committee and the local teachers’ union on a new two-year contract. A commitment by Machias selectmen to minimize increases in next year’s budget will be an important factor in those negotiations. Earlier, Larson said, he warned the Machias School Committee that the town would be hard-pressed to approve more than a 5 percent overall increase in the education portion of the budget.
“I’ve got to commend the Machias School Committee for showing fiscal restraint,” Larson said. “I think they recognize what’s happening and are taking appropriate action.” Larson predicted that many areas within the education budget will see increases of only 2 to 3 percent.
But, he also was critical of the committee’s reluctance to vote down the 5.2 percent raise for Clark and his staff. Mallar said that it would be difficult for the Machias School Committee to negotiate with teachers for a smaller increase than that approved for Clark.
The budget committee was told that the Machias School Committee was powerless to stop the joint school board’s pay recommendation. Mallar and Larson, however, remain skeptical.
According to a formula based on the number of students attending Union 102 schools from each member town at the beginning of the school year, Machias accounts for 50.8 percent of the total student population. The six other towns combine to make up the remaining 49.2 percent.
Those numbers equal the percentage of the overall budget each member town is required to fund. Machias will be responsible for funding 50.8 percent, or more than half, of the overall budget for the union next year, giving the Machias School Committee the majority vote in any joint school board action.
“They could have voted (the raise) down,” said Larson. “Ethically, I have a problem with giving the superintendent a 5.2 percent raise, then asking the teachers to hold back.” He argued that any attempt to control the budget should “start at the top.”
He also questioned whether residents in the member towns outside of Machias were aware of what the increase meant. Machias is the only town in the union with a line item budget that would reflect such pay raises.
“Those people need to know that beforehand,” said Larson.
Larson, meanwhile, is asking the joint board of School Union 102 to call a special meeting to reconsider the raise. “I don’t think it’s too late for them to rescind it,” he added. The joint board normally meets once or twice a year.
Also benefiting from the raise are an administrative assistant, whose salary would rise from $22,750 this year, to $23,935 next year, and two clerks, whose combined salaries would increase from a total of $31,088 this year to $32,704 next year.
The salaries of Machias Memorial High School Principal William Prescott, who now earns $42,886, and Rose M. Gaffney School Principal Barbara Poirier, who was budgeted this year at $38,194, were not affected. Their salaries are set by the Machias School Committee and funded solely by Machias taxpayers.
The Machias School Committee has, in recent years, waited until after the annual town meeting to set the raises for school principals. This policy was rapped last year by the budget committee and selectmen, prompting the school board to promise all proposed salaries would be known and available to voters before the 1991 town meeting.
The 1991 meeting will also mark the first time the education portion of the budget will be presented to Machias voters in a true line-item format.