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BETHEL First selectman’s gets raise to $95,000

November 19, 2018

BETHEL — The first selectman has received an 8.9 percent raise, bringing his annual earnings to $95,000.

The Board of Finance voted unanimously last week to increase the first selectman’s salary from $87,259, an amount members said was low compared to similar towns.

“I’m very appreciative of the Board of Finance’s actions,” First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker said. “But, as a citizen of town and a taxpayer, whether it benefits me personally or not, I believe strongly the position should be compensated appropriately.”

Bob Manfreda, chair of the Board of Finance, said the increase would encourage residents to run for the position.

“As people are considering whether to run in the next cycle, there is a need to do something now,” he said at last week’s meeting.

Knickerbocker was elected first selectman in 2009 and has overseen various water improvement projects, the building of the new police station and the approval of the renovations to Rockwell and Johnson elementary schools.

He also earned a raise last year, when his salary went from $84,718 to $87,259.

The board examined towns of similar size to Bethel and found the first selectman earned less than others in the same position.

“It’s at the extreme low-end of the range,” Manfreda said.

For example, in Madison the first selectman earned $100,000 and the East Lyme first selectman earned about $99,450 in the 2017-18 year, according to data compiled by Bethel’s human resources administrator. Both towns are slightly smaller than Bethel.

In Guilford, where the population is larger by roughly 3,000 people, the first selectman received $111,000.

The Monroe first selectman earned almost $91,000, while the Southbury first selectman received $101,000. Both towns have about the same population as Bethel.

Meanwhile, the first selectman in Brookfield, which has a slightly smaller population, earned $85,000 in the 2017-18 year, according to the data.

Wendy Smith, a board member, said the raise was overdue.

“Our responsibility is to fund the position properly,” said Smith, who worked for at least 20 years in the first selectman’s office.

Board members noted the responsibilities of the first selectman, such as attending events and meetings and heading the Public Utilities Commission.

“If we were to figure how much Matt spends a month doing town duties and divide that by his monthly salary, we all might be surprised by how little he makes per hour,” said Dalene Foster, board member.

The finance board sets the salaries for elected officials, including the selectmen, town treasurer, town clerk and registrars.

The board also raised the stipends for the selectmen from $5,000 to $5,500, but did not yet discuss salaries for the other elected officials.

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