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Selectmen keep assistant position vacant for now


November 17, 2010
Budgets are tight this year and the Board of Selectmen has reduced staff positions in several departments, including the Town Clerk/Tax Collector's Office.

For now the office's assistant position will remain vacant, unless Town Clerk/Tax Collector Denise Morrissette Gonyer can come up with new sources of revenue to offset the cost of this position.

While the selectmen decided to cut the vacant position this September after a retirement, Gonyer still feels strongly and believes that the benefits for the residents would outweigh the costs of the assistant's 24 hour per week position were filled once again.

"The board cut the position and the Budget Committee accepted it," Gonyer said Wednesday night at the Board of Selectmen meeting. "Yet there are negative impacts on not having the position filled."

She said her concerns have remained steady, especially after an incident last week where one office employee had an emergency and the office was down to one person, while Gonyer herself had an appointment she needed to attend. At one point, she said there was the potential of having no one on staff at the office.

"Our employees did their time and they deserve their time off, but we were down to one person on staff and had no one to cover the area," said Gonyer. "We had a good response at the election but I feel we need that extra person."

She told the selectmen that her office creates revenue and that there are new possibilities in the mix for creating enough revenue to potentially fill the vacant position once again.

"There are other ways to create revenue if that's something the board wanted to look at to offset the position since the response is that the service cut does not match the cuts made," said Gonyer.

Board Chairman Kevin Hayes said he would be interested in hearing some of Gonyer's ideas on creating new sources of revenue. In that case, Hayes said he would consider the vacant position and weigh the benefits of the position once again.

Selectman John O'Brien agreed and said it would be worth looking into extra revenue to match other areas, even if the position were not in the picture.

Selectman Gus Benavides said he wanted to make it clear that creating more revenue through the use of increasing fees at the TC/TC Office would in fact be equal to raising taxes in order to increase payroll for this vacant position.

Gonyer said that some fees would need to increase for revenue to increase, although she added that her office creates revenue on a daily basis and felt that the loss of a position has decreased some of the services that the town can offer to its residents.

"Because of the cut of the position, we really need to look for extras. I think this office pays for itself," said Gonyer.

During the meeting, Planning and Land Use Director John Ayer also addressed a reduction in staff hours that bumped one full time position to a part time position, meaning the employee will no longer receive health insurance benefits.

"This will require us to do some serious juggling," said Ayer referring to contrasting hours employees spend in the office to answer calls and to customers.

He said that the impact of a reduction in one employee's hours will also be determined after the high or low need for permits and services this year is clearer, since it is always hard to determine the demand for a year ahead.

"We made a very lean budget and difficult cuts," said Hayes referring to reductions in staffing and hours in several departments. "I would hope that we would look for other ways to make the system work before revaluating it again."

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