After attending the Beacon Falls joint Board of Finance and Board of Selectman budget workshop on April 3, I would like to share a couple of observations. Both boards spent a good deal of time discussing the raise proposed by the First Selectman for the first selectman’s position. His proposal is to increase the salary by $34,200 annually (double the current salary) and also fund $21,500 per year to cover the costs of medical benefits for this position. The new total annual compensation would be $89,900 (an increase of $57,700 annually — an increase of approximately 168 percent).
An argument from one of the members of the BOF was that he feels the rate of the current salary is too low for the position, that a salary of $34,200 is not enough to attract qualified candidates for the position. He believes that the salary should be somewhere around $54,000 however, along with the increase of $20,000 per year, the town should get a first selectman who will be at his desk, in his office at the town hall most of the time, as a full time position. He noted that there will be meetings to attend at times which would keep him from being in his office at all times and he understands that.
This suggestion and the thought process behind it seem like a logical approach to justify an increase of this amount. My thought on this approach is that the taxpayers would be getting something for their money. After all, spending an additional $57,700 annually, they should get something.
What concerns me is that our current First Selectman’s response to this suggestion was that he had researched Connecticut state statutes pertaining to the first selectman’s responsibilities. He explained that according to the statutes, a first selectman’s job is not a full-time job nor is it a part time job, it is a “position” that mainly requires him to sign legal documents for the town. He also noted that in the case of Beacon Falls, the title of chief of police is also attached to the first selectman’s responsibilities. Someone at the table noted that the first selectman also carries the title of director of public works however; our current First Selectman assigned that responsibility and title to one of the other selectmen last year. My comment to this is: What will the taxpayers of Beacon Falls be getting in return for an additional $57,700 per year?
If the majority of members of the BOF and BOS feel the need to raise the amount allocated for the “position” of first selectman to $89,900 annually for the responsibilities of mainly signing legal documents for the town then one of my suggestions is why not spend this money hiring a town manager who would be contractually obligated and responsible for managing every aspect of the town?
Another member of the BOF argued that he works for corporate America and he sees this position as running a $20,000,000 company. The other side to this argument during the meeting was that the town of Beacon Falls is not corporate America. It is a small town in Connecticut funded by the taxpayer’s money. This is an elected “position,” elected by the people, for the people and the position is considered to be a public servant of the town and its residents.
The end result of this subject at the meeting was that the majority of the BOF voted for the full increase submitted by the First Selectman. I would like to note that the chairman of the Board of Finance voted against this increase as he stated he felt it was too high. I would also like to add that someone presented information that several towns comparable to Beacon Falls do not pay a full medical benefits package to the first selectman yet the majority of the BOF voted that Beacon Falls should include $21,500 to fund medical benefits for this position anyway.
Fortunately we still live in a democracy and the taxpayers do get to decide whether or not an annual increase of $57,700 should stay in this fiscal year 2013-14 budget and if they want a total of $89,900 to be allocated annually to the “position” of first selectman.
Whatever your opinion on this subject may be, please get out and vote. Also, if you cannot attend meetings, you can view the minutes of any town meeting on the Beacon Falls website.