The Town Clerk’s Office budget will reflect a salary decrease for the elected office position, a notion suggested by Town Administrator Michael Gagne, who pointed out that the candidates who have submitted papers for the position have little experience and none of the certifications held by current Town Clerk Barbara Sullivan.
The salary will be reduced to about $52,000 or less, down from Sullivan’s current pay of $59, 025. Finance Committee Chairman Patricia Donoghue suggested putting the difference into the training line item to provide training opportunities for the next town clerk.
“That’s not a bad idea,” replied Gagne, adding that the new town clerk will require significant training in municipal government and management skills. Gagne asked Sullivan to make recommendations as to which specific courses the next town clerk should take.
“I strongly recommend they take as many classes as possible,” said Sullivan.
Aside from a slight increase to the postage and computer software line items, the Fiscal Year 2015 budget Sullivan presented was relatively level-funded.
Several areas of the Water budget increased significantly from last year, including the Mattapoisett River Valley District Assessment that is up $58,000. Water and Sewer Superintendent Nick Nicholson compared Mattapoisett’s assessment increase with those of the surrounding towns, with Fairhaven’s assessment up by almost $136,000, while Marion’s assessment decreased by $46,000.
Nicholson said Marion is pumping less water than ever – down to 135 gallons per hour from an average of 200 to 250 gallons per hour – while Fairhaven has increased its water consumption significantly.
Other substantial increases in the Water budget are the electricity line item, up about $50,000, and the maintenance line item, up by $25,000. Capital planning increased by $75,000.
The Sewer budget did not change much, aside from a couple minor increases in areas like supplies.
Nicholson mentioned that water consumption in Mattapoisett is going down, evidenced by the latest billing cycle compared to the billing cycle six months ago. Accompanied by members of the Water and Sewer Commission, Nicholson discussed with FinCom that decreasing water consumption could eventually have undesirable consequences, such as increasing water rates to cover the costs of providing water to consumers.
Nicholson also touched on the possibility of a future Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection requirement that could restrict outdoor water use to just one day per week state-wide, further decreasing water consumption.
Also present to engage in budget talks, Health Agent Dale Barrows asked the committee to consider allowing a $1,000 increase in his budget to provide for a stand-in for Barrows while he goes on vacations, most notably during the summer.
“But who are you going to pay?” asked Donoghue. Committee members wondered how hard it would be to find someone qualified or someone trainable.
“People like me … we’re not hanging from trees,” stated Barrows, acknowledging the difficulty of finding someone to fill his shoes while he is away.
Barrows said he had someone in mind, but the committee was not convinced $1,000 would be enough to interest someone to accept such a responsibility.
“I certainly believe you need a back-up,” said FinCom Member Paul Amoruso. He said he found the request reasonable, but indicated that Barrows needs to develop a more formal proposal for the committee to consider.
“Well, if I have your support, I’d be happy to put it together,” said Barrows.
Also presenting his two budgets to the committee, Veteran’s Agent and Highway Surveyor Barry Denham stated that there would be no significant changes to the Veteran’s Services budget saying, “We’re in pretty good shape right now with what we got.”
As for the Highway budget, Denham told the committee that he needs $10,881 to buy a new snow plow and repair the pistons on the new loader that were damaged by repeatedly connecting the old plow that is not compatible.
Gagne said the money could be taken from the Reserve Fund for now to cover the cost of the repairs and the $8,500 plow. In May, he said the funding could be transferred from free cash back into the Reserve Fund. Donoghue made the motion, and the committee approved the funding.
The next Mattapoisett Finance Committee meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 6 at 6:30 pm at Town Hall.
By Jean Perry