Aaron Dawson, standing, speaks in support of increasing the salary for Mexico Free Public Library Director Heather Rogers at Wednesday’s municipal budget meeting in Mexico. (Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times)

MEXICO — About 10 people turned out to support Mexico Free Public Library Director Heather Rogers’ presentation of her 2018-19 budget before selectmen Wednesday night.

Rogers, who has a master’s degree in library science, submitted a proposal that included raising her salary by $4 per hour to $16.30 for a 34-hour workweek.

She said the rate it based comparisons with libraries in West Paris, Dixfield and Rangeley, and directors who do not have a master’s degree in library science.

Library patron Aaron Dawson backed Rogers, saying she spends a lot of time with patrons and her educational background is very useful here.

“She helps me on computers that I don’t get at other libraries,” Dawson said.

Retired teacher Linda Petrie said libraries are dear to her because they’re a place for learning. Of Rogers, she said, “You’re getting a lot for your buck with this girl. We need to love and protect our library.”

Sharon Madore, an advisory board member of the Mexico library, said Rogers is an exceptional department head, who is also a grant writer.

Another library patron, who is a mother and medical student, said Rogers is only making “a little bit more than a minimum-wage person.”

She said the director helps her on computer research at the library. She thanked Rogers for the many educational activities for children during the summer.

“When she took the job, she knew we could not pay big money,” Selectman Reggie Arsenault said. “I feel bad, but what you’re asking for, we can’t afford. We can’t compare to other towns. I can’t support that much of a wage.”

Town Manager Jack Gaudet said a master’s degree is not a requirement for the library director’s position.

Board Chairman Richie Philbrick made a motion to increase Rogers’ hourly wage by $2.50, but it failed by a vote of 2-3.

So did Selectman Byron Ouellette’s motion for a $2-an-hour increase. The vote was  2-3.

Selectman Cliff Stewart motioned for a 70-cent hike and it was approved, 3-2.

“We have to fund essential services first,” Stewart said, referring to police, fire and highways. “The Rec Department and library are not essential services.”

One woman said she heard the library might close.

“The library is here to stay,” Philbrick said.

Selectmen had set a goal of not increasing the budget and having no pay raises for nonunion employees in an effort to maintain a tax rate of $28.50 per thousand dollars of assessed property value.

However, they did not follow through. Instead, along with the Budget Committee, they recommended merit increases of $1,200 to Police Chief Roy Hodsdon and $18 per week for each of the three Fire Department drivers. Fire Chief Richard Jones refused a merit increase.

Selectmen and the Budget Committee will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday downstairs in the Town Hall. Discussion will include budgets for public works, recreation and the town office.

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