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Barrington residents to vote on municipal minimum wage increase at Financial Town Meeting



Jacob Brier is a member of the Barrington Town Council. He is proposing a $15 minimum wage for all municipal town employees at a May 22 Barrington Financial Town Meeting. This is his released statement:

“The people who work for our town are responsible for the delivery of the high quality of life we have here. They keep Town Hall running smoothly, they provide programming for seniors and youngsters, they assist and educate residents using our library, they ensure a clean environment indoors and outside, and they keep us safe on the water. They are critical pieces of the puzzle that makes Barrington one of New England’s most desirable towns.

“In order to lead by example, as we have in areas such as protecting our environment and public safety status, I would like to see the voters of Barrington raise our minimum wage to $15 an hour. At this pay rate, our town’s workers will be able to earn enough money to cover the cost of basic needs. The Economic Progress Institute calculates the cost of basic needs for one Rhode Islander without a child is $26,000, in pre-tax dollars. That number climbs to $68,000 for an adult couple with two children. At $15 per hour, a person who works 40 hours every week, the entire year without sick days or personal time off, will earn $30,000.

“By adding $45,000 to the municipal budget, we will provide the Town Manager the ability to recommend and implement a cost of living adjustment that will raise municipal wages so they are no longer below today’s actual costs of living.

“Approval of this motion will increase tax bills by an estimated average of approximately $6.75; less than 30 minutes at the new minimum wage.

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“I am aware that this is a difficult budget year and I am proposing an increase when many are looking for decreases. For this reason, I chose to present the opportunity to increase Barrington’s municipal wages to the town at our Financial Town Meeting, on its own standing. We will collectively decide as a community to align our priorities and shared values with our tax bills. It was suggested to me that it would be possible to squeeze this wage increase into the budget. Because it is driven by my view of our community’s values, rather than the town’s need for smooth municipal operations, I believe it should be a change that comes from pure democracy, and not be mandated by elected officials or administration. Or, it might be that the motion is voted down in that same manner. Either way, the opportunity to directly voice our opinion and cast our vote on this issue will decide its outcome.

“I believe in the value of this action, and I believe it deserves open, public discussion so we can make a decision about the type of community we are now, and will be in the future.

“Is Barrington a town that will choose to invest in its municipal employees, paying them a justified, earned, and livable minimum wage?

“Are we a community of people who will set an example for the businesses in our town, the rest of our state, and our nation?

“I believe we are. I believe in Barrington.”

Barrington’s Financial Town Meeting and Brier’s motion “to increase the town’s minimum wage for municipal employees to $15 per hour” is on May 22, 2019 at 7:00 PM at the Barrington High School Auditorium.

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.