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'The Town Does Not Acknowledge Their Dedication to Their Work'

Edith Wheeler Memorial Library's part-time employees have not gotten a raise in six years and earn $10.92 an hour, when they say comparable town jobs average $15 an hour.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include wages for part-timers in libraries from surrounding communities.

Carolyn Aucello assisted Edith Wheeler Memorial Library's visitors at the circulation desk on Thursday morning. A co-worker was out sick, so Aucello, a part-time employee of 12 years, was pitching in.

"It's a good place to work," she said. "I've enjoyed working her for so many years. Our patrons are the best."

Margaret Borchers, the library director, said Aucello and other part-time employees are often the first faces people see when they walk through the library doors.

"Their excellent customer service, friendliness and considerate treatment of our patrons presents an image of the town of Monroe as a welcoming community and a good place to live, work and do business," Borchers said.

However, after six consecutive years without a raise, the library's part-time staffers do not feel appreciated. Borchers said they're the lowest paid when compared to libraries in surrounding towns.

According to wages for part-timers in other libraries provided by Borchers, Monroe is $10.92 an hour, Bethel $13.12, Bridgeport $14.85, Brookfield $14.28 to $15.53 depending on years of service, Fairfield $12.23, Newtown $15.52 to $17.77 depending on years of service, Redding $15, Ridgefield $14 to $16 depending on years of service, Shelton $11.14, Stratford $12.38 to $17.84 depending on years of service, and Trumbull $10.50 to $16.63 depending on years of service.

Monroe's part-time library employees also maintain that the average wage for comparable part-time town employees is $15 an hour.

"By the low pay, the town does not acknowledge their dedication to their work," Borchers said.

Longtime Library Board Chairman Bill Ehlers told Town Council members at their budget workshop Wednesday, "For $10.92 they can work at McDonald's. It's a shame and an embarrassment to the town."

Ehlers said the part-timers make the library go.

"This is the best staff I've come across," he said. "They're well trained."

Town Council Chairwoman Enid Lipeles, who frequents the library, said the job the staff performs goes well beyond just stamping books that people check out. "You have to be computer savvy," she said.

A Letter to Town Officials

First Selectman Steve Vavrek kept funding for the raises in the library's budget, but Town Council and Board of Finance approvals will be needed in order for it to stay in the budget proposal that goes to voters at referendum time.

On Nov. 30,2012, Edith Wheeler Memorial Library's part-time employees wrote a letter to Borchers, Ehlers, Lipeles and Board of Finance Chairman Mark Reed pleading their case for the pay raises.

"The part-time employees in the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library have not received an increase in pay for six years. Based on competitive rates of other libraries, and rates of pay for similar positions in the rest of the Town, we are recommending a rate of $15 per hour. To achieve this goal, we propose an increase of $1.15 per hour each year for the next four years, with the rate of $15.52 to be achieved in four years.

"The budget impact each year would be approximately $15,000."

The employees then ask that future increases be in conjunction with other part-time town employees.

"The worthiness of the Library positions, as evidenced by years of dedication and experience, should be a prime factor in deciding on this proposal," they wrote.

"Part-time Library employees are required to be just as professional, and are called upon to perform the same technical and complicated transactions, and tend to public service functions, in the same manner as full-time employees. The expectation of high performance is the same as full-time employees," the letter continues.

"In fact, there have been periods of extraordinary pressure and public need, and the part-time employees were, and continue to be, available to alleviate the pressure. We are in every respect representatives of the Town of Monroe, and proud to be so. We care for the needs of Monroe's citizens, including children, every single day," the letter says.

The letter closes, "We hope our request will receive a favorable response from you commensurate with our responsibilities and regional compensation."

Jim beam February 19, 2013 at 06:00 PM
The idea that Jim Laguardia "blew up an argument" is so absurd as to be laughable. He doesn't engage in logical discourse. He stalks and berates posters because they use the common internet practice of pseudonyms. Why, even Benjamin Franklin used pseudonyms back in his day. The stench of Laguardia's rhetorical flatulence permeates these message commentarys and drives serious posters away. All because Laguardia uses his name in this posings? What drivel. The juvenile nature of his responses and his lack of command of simple grammar should be an embarrassment to him but he lacks such self awareness that he's proud of his ignorance. It's quite obvious that he's not a very consistent patron of the library that he's purportedly defending. However, with friends like him who needs enemies. He's a troll. Don't feed him.
jim laguardia February 19, 2013 at 06:18 PM
Well where do I start.... a troll or stalker would be if I addressed YOU,. not thed other way around. I really don't care if you post under a fake name most of the time, but picking on LIBRARIANS under a fake name is guttless. I not only blew up the argument I sent I swept it up with a dust pan and disposed of it. I am a frequent patron at the library, and will be there today if you would like to come tell the ladies to their faces how easy they have it. Again I will point out I made 2 blanket statements about them deserving a raise, and about using a real name to pick on librarians neither was addressed to ANYONE in particular but YOU and others took it upon yourselves to addrres ME. Lastly to paraphrase a famous quote "you sir (or is it mam) are NO Benjamin Franklin"
Jim beam February 19, 2013 at 06:23 PM
Jimbo: To quote Bugs Bunny, "what a maroon". When you're at the library today, try picking up a book and reading it. That can only help.
Walt February 19, 2013 at 06:55 PM
@Mr. Beam, Crown royal, QWERTY, are there ANY public employees that you deem worthy of a paycheck? Personally I cannot fathom why anyone would want to work for a municipality where there is such hostility towards the employees from the populace. Six years with no increase at a part time job is a long time. Monroe can't keep people here because they're so cheap. We have no Economic Development office. Multiple public works directors, town planner, etc have left. We just suffered through a blizzard during which the public works department did a great job clearing roads and you want to take a scalpel to what - the dirt floor of their facility? Direct you ire where most of the money goes, where there is declining enrollment and no corresponding decrease.
jim laguardia February 19, 2013 at 06:58 PM
Again why do YOU keep addressing ME?? That would fit the meaning of troll or stalker.
Laura February 19, 2013 at 07:16 PM
The people who post on these sites are rude and out of control and SO self centered...Most of you need to grow up and stick with the issue at hand instead of bellyaching to (at) one another. 77 comments on this issue and perhaps 10 relavent - this is like a soap opera...
Jim beam February 19, 2013 at 07:40 PM
Walt: You've made some very good and salient comments. There does need to be a discussion of all aspects of the municipal budget, especially the education budget because that is where the significant dollars are expended. With declining enrollments, education expenditures need to be spent more wisely. Most of us don't have the time to review the minutia contained in each budget. That doesn't make our concerns less valid. Many of us do get a sense that town leadership is not very vigorous in exacting savings. A municipal budget never declines, it only grows. There is a perception that leadership is incapable of recognizing the need for cost savings. My beef with public works was not due to the last storm, in which a laudatory effort was made. However, prior storms, including Sandy, seemed to bring more dismal efforts. My sense is that is a function of leadership. The current discussion regarding librarians morphs into a discussion not about the librarians themselves but to the whole budgetary process. The librarians may be nice enough but as society modernizes traditional municipal jobs may need to phazed out. The librarians are just an example of the conversation that needs to take place regarding what town services should be provided and how efficiently they can be delivered.
Donna Gail February 19, 2013 at 07:46 PM
People in town love the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library. Why should there be so much disparity between what the part-timers there make and what all the other town employees make? I agree with Schap, include a raise for them in the budget, and take the money out somewhere else, like insurance. Insurance always seems to be a place where extra money is conveniently found later anyway.
Non-Fiction February 19, 2013 at 08:03 PM
@Jim Beam and Walt - the schools have received 2 years of a zero percent budget and staff has been cut at a faster pace then declining enrollment. Our class sizes are larger than similar towns. A few kids leaving at each grade level does not justify a cut. Children are spread through hundreds of classrooms and 5 buildings - including STEM. If we had one district wide elementary school and we lost 30 3rd grade students then a third grade teacher could be cut. Keep in mind the district is not replacing all the teacher retirements either. Maybe you should read over the budget before you rely on misinformation and rumor.
Jim beam February 19, 2013 at 08:30 PM
Non-Fiction: I understand that there have been no education budget increase in two years. Fine. But if staff has been cut then why hasn't the budget declined instead of remaining the same? I'm not identifying any particular area or expense to cut; that is not my job. What I am saying is that there appears to be a mindset that the municipal budget can only increase. There appears to be no appetite for the hard choices of cost cutting. That is a function of leadership. To be considered an advocate of education in this town appears to be predicated on one's perception of the budget. If you're for increases then you're pro-education. I'm for efficiencies that may result in cost savings. I also consider myself pro-education and pro-teacher. That may seem counterintuitive but it's a fact.
Non-Fiction February 19, 2013 at 08:59 PM
Jim Beam - increases this year are for Full day kindergarten, teacher raises - they had a wage freeze last year, security upgrades, health insurance, and building repairs. Special education costs are going up every year. This year it was over 10%. The new adopted state curriculum - the Common Core - will cost more in teacher and administrator training and of course new textbooks and curriculum supplies. There are also associated costs with fuel, heat electricity etc. Most of the computers are over 10 years old and are being slowly replaced - just at Masuk. The elementary will get the old Masuk computers.
Alex February 19, 2013 at 09:01 PM
I think there's 30K we could save from buying the first selectman a 4 wheel drive vehicle. Give that money to the librarians.
jim laguardia February 19, 2013 at 09:19 PM
I would suggest you tread VERY LIGHTLY where you are going with that comment "crown royal"....
Crown Royal February 19, 2013 at 09:19 PM
I never said they do not deserve a raise. I simply wanted more facts prior to agreeing with them. How many employees have gone 6 years without the raise. How many hours per week do they work. I agree, education is where we have the most to cut, yet it continues increasing year after year after year.
jim laguardia February 19, 2013 at 09:31 PM
people like who "crown royal" ?? ones that cant go certain places in town because they have been asked to not be on the property because of past behaviors?? If you think i care about the librarians and their pay scale just try me and see how much i care about my children
Jim beam February 19, 2013 at 09:36 PM
It truly never ends. Administrator training? Sounds like another day they don't have to work. Have they worked a full day in February, yet? Why is a new curriculum needed? The core curriculum should be English, math, science, and history. Teachers haven't been trained in teaching these subjects, yet? What did they do in college? Textbooks should be available online. That would be cheaper than purchasing the books which will soon be outdated, anyway. Students should be responsible for their own computers. They all have them at home, already. By purchasing through the town and in volume, students will be able to purchase computers at discounted prices. Textbook and computer expense problem resolved.
Jim beam February 19, 2013 at 09:55 PM
Ebooks are replacing textbooks. That's what the Kindle is for. Now kids won't have to strain their backs lugging those heavy backpacks. Another problem solved.
Alan Vaglivelo February 19, 2013 at 10:29 PM
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort to establish a shared set of educational standards that states can voluntarily adopt. At this time about 44 states have adopted these measures. The standards have been formulated by studying the highest state standards across the country. The standards are bench marked to international standards to guarantee that our children can compete in the global marketplace.
Jim beam February 19, 2013 at 10:38 PM
Mr. Vaglivelo: What is the anticipated cost of complying with these standards? It would seem as if not much training would be required at all since previously designed curricula should have contained the essentials elements of these new standards. As previously explained, textbook costs should be nominal with the use of ebooks. These new standards don't require new staffing, do they? It doesn't seem possible that more staffing would be required.
Alan Vaglivelo February 19, 2013 at 10:56 PM
New staff is needed for full day kindergarten. The Common Core is written for a full day program. In general, the standards will expect more rigor from the students. (e.g., kindergarten students will be expected to perform work at a first grade level). There will be staff training involved. Feel free to stop by the BOE meeting tonight (7:30 Masuk library).
Jim beam February 19, 2013 at 11:04 PM
Mr. V: Unfortunately, I'm working. My concern on an ongoing basis is cost efficiencies that may be realized in the education and municipal budget. My sense is that taxpayers are seen as a never ending source of funds by those constructing the budget. That creates circumstances where even those who see themselves as pro-education and pro-teacher begin to have antipathy towards the education budget, after tax exhaustion. Reexamining what services the town should offer and how they are supposed to be paid is continually necessary. I don't see that mindset on the part of town leadership. That is what becomes most frustrating. Good luck in your curriculum restructuring. We all have a vested interest in your success.
Jim beam February 19, 2013 at 11:17 PM
Mr. Laguardia: I apologize for my unkind comments to you, earlier. They were the result of my annoyance at your harping about posters' names rather than the topic at hand. I understand your objection. You've made that clear. it need not be repeated continually. If one isn't being derogatory or abusive then pseudonyms can be useful in preventing internet privacy abuse. I know you disagree, however. I look forward to the continued exchange of viewpoints. A good discussion with an open mind allows for the refinement of one's position on the matter being discussed. We can agree to disagree but do so in a civil and respectful manner. I hope you accept this apology.
jim laguardia February 20, 2013 at 05:21 AM
Ok that's fine... what I won't accept is someone telling me they can look up my kids information (not you) that's not gonna fly with me
Jim beam February 20, 2013 at 01:00 PM
Jim: I think what Crown Royal meant is that in the age of the internet, someone has the capability of violating the privacy of someone starting with as little information as an individual's name. It didn't seem as if he was threatening or directing this at you, personally. It appeared as if Crown Royal was merely writing in the abstract; that it is possible to do so. That is the peril of online participation that then gives rise to the use of pseudonyms. I look forward to more meaningful discussions with you in the future.
QWERTY February 20, 2013 at 05:05 PM
Because it's about supply and demand! There's probably a huge surplus of qualified applicants willing to do this job for the same pay! As a taxpayer, why should I pay more money just because? What makes it worse is this service is used by very few residents anyways. We're all going to pay more, to get the same level of service, that most of us won't use. And this logic goes for ANY town employee or ANY town expense.
QWERTY February 20, 2013 at 05:08 PM
Jim, you're a stalker, a very dangerous stalker. It's to my benefit that you know very little about me. The last thing I need is you looking up my name, waiting for me on my driveway when I come home from work. Your irrational logic exposes you as a troubled person, one I want nothing to do with.
jim laguardia February 20, 2013 at 05:36 PM
YOU addrresed ME, AND KEEP GOING and then I stalk??
jim laguardia February 20, 2013 at 05:37 PM
YOU addrresed ME, AND KEEP GOING and then say I stalk??
Alex February 21, 2013 at 05:06 AM
I'm looking at the line item budget for the Library salary changes: Salaries-Other: $7118+ Salaries-Part Time: $13,354+ Not sure what that salary-other is, but the part time workers increase isn't asking for that much.
Crown Royal February 21, 2013 at 06:24 PM
That was precisely my intention. I was angry that you were dismissing people's opinions simply because they were using pseudonyms, "Grow a pair and make your nasty comments about librarians under a real name". I was trying to just make a point and I had to make sure it got across to you. Again, I apologize if you took that as a threat, as it was not meant to be at all. I have since deleted the original comment so as not to further offend or threaten you.

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