Essex County

rvisors have voted in disapproval of a contract that would give certain employees at North Country Community College a $1,000 raise next year.

At their Aug. 30 meeting, the Essex County Ways and Means Committee voted 8-6 against the three-year contract the college had negotiated with its 24 Civil Service employees.

The contract offers those employees a $1,000 raise after one year with additional 3-percent raises in each of the two years to follow. It also offers fully-paid health insurance for existing staff, requiring only new hires to contribute 8 percent to their insurance.

It was these benefits that many supervisors, particularly Jay supervisor Randy Douglas, took issue with.

"Any raises that come before me this year, I'm going to vote 'no' on," said Douglas, noting the flat payroll he's urged in his own town. "Raises at this point, I just can't justify them anywhere."

Others defended the contract, however. Elizabethtown supervisor Noel Merrihew was a member of the college's negotiating committee.

"The 3 percent could have gone someplace else," said Merrihew, "but it's the total cost of the contract we're looking at."

NCCC vice president of Fiscal Operations William Chapin said the contract negotiations date back to 2009 and were part of a college budget that amounted to a 2.5-percent increase in overall spending, due in large part to a 16-percent increase in enrollment.

"I think they've done their due diligence," said Westport supervisor Dan Connell. "I'm in full support of the college."

Chapin noted the annual payroll for the 24 Civil Service employees, most of whom are clerical and maintenance staff, currently amounts to around $700,000.

"When we look at the overall package, we think this is a fair contract for our Civil Service employees," Chapin said. "These are some of our lowest-paid employees, hard-working individuals."

"I can show you a lot of hardworking people in the private sector that are making $11 or $12 an hour and have to contribute 50 percent to their health insurance," countered Douglas.

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