January 24, 2013TUFTONBORO — At its Jan.14 meeting, the Tuftonboro Board of Selectmen discussed whether the 2013 two percent pay increase the town has recommended could start in January, before official acceptance of the budget at Town Meeting on March 13 Ė a move that would be more favorable to employees than proceeding retroactively after the vote.
Looking over a letter from the NH Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) passed along to the board from Administrative Assistant Cathy Pounder, Selectman Carolyn Sundquist pointed out that the DRA said such a move is permissible by law. The Internal Revenue Service though has recommended otherwise in the past.
She said that Pounder has called to her attention that changes in the town's healthcare compensation requiring a greater contribution from employees combined with an increase in the federal payroll tax will reduce take home pay, negating the two percent salary increase.
Selectman Lloyd Wood said that he understood that under the Municipal Budget Act the town can only spend at the same rate until Town Meeting. "The law is clear," he reiterated. He then raised the idea of granting raises upon employment anniversary dates.
Chairman Dan Duffy said that is has been town tradition to wait until after the Town Meeting vote on the budget, and then pass along the raises retroactively, but he realized that granting the raises now would help offset the changes.
The issue was tabled until further consideration at Wood's suggestion.
As promised, Sundquist recently presented her fellow board members with a draft of updated personnel policies. Holiday pay is problematical, she said, since not every one works the same number of hours. "It's a start. It gives us something to work with. A meeting of town department heads is scheduled for Jan. 25 to discuss the policy in detail and present their suggested changes.
Road Agent Jim Bean reported that his crew has plowed or sanded 18 times, with Nov. 8 marking the first occasion. It has also been removing dead trees at the side of roads, including 25 hours of bucket truck work to take care of leaning and snapped trees.
Transfer Station Manager Clay Gallagher gave a monthly update of activities at the station. He was pleased that around 500 new (two-year) stickers have been purchased and explained recent repairs to the compactor. November recycling revenue amounted to nearly $6,500; December's revenue was $6,100. The total for 2012 was $72,000.
The matter of whether to set up DSL (no cost estimate yet to upgrade and change lines) at the station or lines for Time Warner cable access to the internet for business operations, estimated to cost approximately $10,000, was discussed. Gallagher said that he prefers using Time Warner Cable, which has shown itself to be reliable.
Sundquist, the board's representative to the budget committee, reported that the committee had reduced the operating budget by $7,200. That included reductions in line items for Financial, Government, Emergency Management, Solid Waste and Parks and Recreation.
The selectmen's proposed warrant articles total $535,000. The budget committee recommendations come to $523,000. The $12,000 difference is attributed to a $2,000 reduction on the amount allowed for a new police cruiser and its disapproval (2-5) of the $10,000 warrant article to cover the cost of developing specifications and designing a maintenance and storage building. The budget committee voted instead to raise the transfer station operating budget's miscellaneous line item by $2,000, and Chairman Ted Wright offered to do the site design for free.
That brings the total difference in appropriations at this point to $19,200. A public hearing before the budget committee is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 5, at the town offices. The budget committee meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.; the hearing will commence at 7 p.m.
Sundquist said that a citizen spoke to her during her Friday office hours about having the milfoil appropriations, which are listed in the budget, put in the form of a warrant article to come before the voters. The board discussed the matter and decided to send the individual a letter explaining the board's decision to put the expense in the budget since the milfoil abatement has been under way for two years with support from the voters each year. At this point, cutbacks would be detrimental to the ongoing effort.
Duffy also noted that the milfoil committee's work has received strong volunteer support.
The next board of selectmen's meeting is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. at the town offices.