Local News

Pittsfield rejects town budget over pay increases

Courtesy of the Pittsfield Select Board

Columns show the hourly rates for the 2015 actual pay to Pittsfield town employees, the Vermont Municipal Compensation report average, and what was budgeted for 2016.

PITTSFIELD—On Tuesday, March 1, Pittsfield voters rejected their town budget. The most contentious item seemed to be pay increases, according to Select Board members Matt Corron and Wendy Reese. The 2015 Select Board had unanimously agreed to bring pay rates closer to the averages listed in the 2015 Vermont Municipal Compensation Report (page 5). While the increases were significant, the board determined they were appropriate provided there was no increase in the tax rate.

In 2015 the municipal total to be raised by taxes to meet budget was $500,161. The 2016 municipal total to be raised by taxes, including the approved warned items, is $505,624.85. The 2016 General Fund budget, including all the increases and warned articles, was $9,340.15 less than the 2015 General Fund budget. The estimated municipal tax remains the same as 2015 at $0.50.

The Board also considered future vacancies for the positions. When the assistant town clerk position opened in the fall of 2015, the Board acknowledged the challenges of finding a qualified applicant at the current rate of pay. Therefore, the Board deemed it appropriate to raise salary levels closer to state averages.

The Select Board also discussed the possibility of hiring an administrator to take on some of the duties that have been added to the clerk and treasurer position over the years and that more properly reside with Board members. The Board felt this discussion should take place during 2017 budget planning.

While the recommended increases are significant, the Board determined they were warranted. Benefits and salary increases have not always reflected cost of living adjustments. The Board feels the town is fortunate to have two long-term employees who have been committed to the town and their positions for 25 years (Town Clerk/Treasurer Patty Haskins and Road Commissioner George Deblon), and that job performance, longevity and dedication should be recognized and rewarded through their salaries.

A concern was raised about medical benefits for the Town clerk/treasurer. Kelly Avery from Vermont League of Cities and Towns’ Employment Resource and Benefits Trust states that, “Cumulative hours working define eligibility for insurance coverage.”  This is true even if two different positions are held. Currently, two town employees are eligible based on total cumulative hours. Until 2016, only one of the eligible employees had taken advantage of this benefit through the town.

Additional comments and concerns were raised about town hall maintenance and the contract for the Rutland County sheriff. The Select Board agreed to maintain the same contract the previous board had drafted with the Rutland County Sheriff. In the contract, a Deputy would be in the town approximately three times per month for two hours to drive through the neighborhoods and monitor speed. VTrans says the  town needs to increase enforcement of speed limits along Route 100.

With regard to the town hall building, the Select Board identified many needs such as exterior and interior painting, siding repairs, window repairs, and basement dampness. It decided to prioritize those after the 2016 budget was approved.

Additional items the Select Board increased were: the training cost line item due to an increase in the number of newly elected officers; $1,000.00 to the basketball court resurfacing fund; a maintenance contract for the HVAC  system at the town office; funds for advertising in the event of delinquent tax sales; and $9,000.00 as the town’s 10% match for a grant to resurface Bridge #11.

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