LISBON - Lisbon's police chief will soon be paid what his predecessor made to fulfill a pledge he says Village Council made when they promoted him.
Council voted last week to grant a 5 percent raise to Chief Mike Abraham, effective immediately, followed by a second 5 percent increase in January, bringing his salary to $49,163, which is what former Chief John "Buck" Higgins was making when he retired at the end of 2012.
Abraham was promoted to chief in November of that year, with his salary set at 90 percent of what Higgins was making. Although the resolution stated council would review his salary after one year, Abraham said they verbally promised to bring him up to what Higgins was making after a year. He said it was the same verbal pledge made when Jim Oliver was promoted to street department foreman.
The issue was first brought up prior to the regular council meeting at council's finance committee meeting. "I don't recall anyone promising you more," Council member Joe Morenz told Abraham, although he was not a finance committee member at the time.
Council member Steve Defilippo recalled it being discussed, and Council President Roger Gallo, who joined the committee meeting, said he did not remember the promise being made but pointed out two council members who might have been involved in those discussions are no longer in office.
In the end, the committee recommended Abraham's salary request be approved by council, with half granted immediately and the rest in January. Defilippo told Abraham the discussion had nothing to do with his performance because he believes the chief has done an outstanding job since being promoted.
"I've had more communication with you in one year than I had with Buck in nine years," Defilippo said.
The discussion led into a larger debate among finance committee members about whether village employees should be granted a pay raise and/or have their share of monthly health insurance premiums reduced from 12.5 percent to 10 percent.
Employees were granted a 3 percent raise last year, their first in five years, but council said it is simply a matter of what they can afford. "We've got to keep an eye on village finances," said Cheryl Mills.
Fiscal Officer Tracey Wonner reported a 1 percent pay raise would cost the village an additional $14,000 a year, while reducing how much employees pay toward their monthly insurance premium by 2.5 percent would cost the village about $5,000 annually.
"I understand you want to do what's best for employees, but the bottom line is we have to do what is best for the village," she said, adding they have a number of street resurfacing projects that need addressed.
Finance committee members decided to make no recommendation for now and resume discussions at a future committee meeting.
Council did agree to Abraham's request to raise the hourly rate for the part-time meter reader from $8.45 to $9.02, a job once performed by two people. He said this would bring the position into line with what is paid part-time dispatchers.