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Tuftonboro selectmen discuss employee compensation survey results

September 02, 2010
TUFTONBORO — Tuftonboro's preliminary valuation by Cross County Appraisals shows land values up and housing values down. Selectman chair Carolyn Sundquist announced at the board's Aug. 30 meeting that the town is assessed at $1,106,056,212, up from $1,056,166,697, an increase of nearly $50 million. The final value will be set following public hearings.

A work session focused on employee compensation packages followed the record-setting 15 minute regular meeting. Jay Kitchener and John Simms, members of the study committee that collected and compared information from 10 area towns, including Tuftonboro, were on hand for the discussion.

A memo from Simms to the board summarized the committee's findings and acknowledged "this very difficult issue." The most significant points were that Tuftonboro's salaries are competitive, the benefits package is "the second most generous of the ten towns for an employee taking single coverage, and third most generous of the ten towns for family coverage."

If benefits are separated into service-related and insurance-related, wrote Simms, "we are the most generous town of all ten in service-related benefits. We are fourth out of ten for an employee with single coverage, and third out of ten for family coverage."

Holidays, personal days and sick days were set aside in the service-related category. Sundquist said that she did not see those benefits as having a notable affect on the budget, an opinion that Simms took issue with, but which the others agreed. There appeared to be consensus that the toughest and most expensive issue to tackle is the matter of health insurance costs.

Selectman Bill Stockman commented at the outset of the session: "Since 2007, New Hampshire business revenues are down 20 percent. Governor Lynch has asked all departments to cut their budgets by five percent with another 10 percent possible depending on revenues." He expressed the opinion that the selectmen need to take into consideration that service demand has slowed down.

"The compensation committee has done a great job," he continued, "but Tuftonboro is not Wolfeboro and it's not Moultonborough. We don't need to lead or be right with them. It's tough out there. There have been foreclosures in town."

Selectman Dan Duffy noted that Tuftonboro "is at the upper end in compensation and benefits. We have to find a common ground between employees and taxpayers." While suggesting that the board meet somewhere "in the middle," he offered that maybe they should add disability and life insurance benefits to the package.

Sundquist said that she felt that raises were in order since there were none last year. As for the health insurance options, the board was looking over a list of alternative plans including six different options. "Perhaps we could reduce health insurance to a cheaper plan or have employees pay towards their plan," she said as she was thinking it through.

"Perhaps we could go with the existing plan and they could share ten percent of it," suggested Stockman, "as the majority of the savings are in the health insurance contributions and less in the other benefits."

The discussion went back and forth mulling over the various options, including having higher deductibles with reimbursement options handled by the Local Government Center's Health Trust and dental plans.

In the end, they decided to consider offering raises this year, pick two plans for employees' consideration, and meet with employees to talk further about the value of adding disability and life insurance benefits. It appears likely that employees will be asked to pay a share of health insurance costs in some form or another. "It was a hot item at budget time," said Duffy. "We have to deal with it." The actual cost of next year's plans, rather than the estimated cost, will be apparent in October.

The budget for next year will include taxes toward the state's education costs amounting to around $700,000. Sundquist said the return to the funding of education through excess property tax from property rich towns will come into effect July 1, 2011. She said that Governor Lynch has stated that the state will have difficulty replacing the $160 million in federal stimulus funding that has bolstered the budget and that further cuts in every department will depend on revenues.

The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 14, Election Day, at the Tuftonboro Town House at 9 a.m.

Martin Lord Osman
Brewster Academy
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