Letter: Taxpayers urged to learn about budget

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letters_flatTo the editor,

I am writing in response to the April letter from the First Selectman. Mr. Smith stated that since 2005, he has been an advocate for making the position of first selectman full-time. When this position that he advocated was objected to by his opponents in 2011, Mr. Smith wrote (Citizen’s News, Oct. 2011) that “in the past” he had “supported making the position … full-time, with commensurate ($65,000) compensation.” He went on to say that he, “seeks no increase in the size of government” and that he “had moved on.”

Now, a year and a half later, Mr. Smith is pushing for his salary to be doubled and to receive a benefits package costing the town $21,500. That’s an increase of almost 140 percent.

In Mr. Smith’s February letter, he stated that he had asked all departments to keep their budget proposals at a 0 percent increase. Zero percent for all departments and a 140 percent increase for the first selectman? This sound hypocritical to me.

In trying to push his request for this increase, Mr. Smith stated that former First Selectman Susan Cable had “routinely stated that she was embarrassed by her small salary.” This is simply not true. As a matter of fact, I clearly remember salary increases being brought up by others at meetings, and Mrs. Cable stating that she did not need an increase and that the town could not afford an increase.

I also remember two or three years ago, when a raise for her position was discussed, Mrs. Cable said that rather then increasing her salary she would like to see the positions of tax collector and town clerk be made full-time. The cost of making those positions full-time would be offset by the tax collector doing all the back-tax collection instead of hiring a marshal to handle it and by eliminating a part-time position in the town clerk’s office and by having the fees collected in that office go to the town rather than to the town clerk — a sensible, cost efficient proposal. Mr. Smith opposed this suggestion.

Questions have been raised by members of the public inquiring if the duties of the first selectman would increase and if the position would become full-time with this huge increase in compensation. Mr. Smith replied, “according to state statutes … the only thing part-time is the compensation.” The state statutes do not address compensation that is left up to the individual towns.

Supposedly, this salary increase was suggested after conducting a survey of comparable towns. Comparable would mean similar population, similar wealth, similar duties, etc.

Although I have not seen this survey, I suspect it was conducted of neighboring towns, not comparable ones.

In response to all the questions and opposition regarding the 140 percent increase for the first selectman, at last week’s Board of Finance meeting, they voted to eliminate the benefits package and include a raise of $15,000 which, while being a huge improvement, is still an increase of almost 15 percent. When was the last time you got any raise, let alone a 15 percent one?

Because the economy went into a recession in 2007, our town has been holding the line on spending. While things are looking up, it has certainly not improved enough to request a 140 percent increase, or even a 15 percent increase for one person; especially with all the other high ticket items we need: new ambulance, new pumper truck, and new truck for maintenance to name a few.

I urge all taxpayers to attend the budget hearing and the budget vote. These are your tax dollars that are being bandied about.

Kathy Grace

Beacon Falls

1 COMMENT

  1. As I read this, I thought FINALLY Kathy Grace wrote something I could agree with. Then came “Because the economy went into a recession in 2007, our town has been holding the line on spending.”

    Let’s recall that in August 2008, the town purchased a 1.52-acre property on Wolfe Avenue for more than a couple hundred thousand dollars. Let’s recall that architect Paul Bailey was hired by the town for just under $21,000 and completed his work in May of 2010. Let’s recall that the elected officials to this day have no idea what to do with this property.

    Like I said in the beginning – I DO AGREE WITH KATHY GRACE. We don’t need a (well) paid politician, regardless of which party they’re representing, doing the same job that’s been done for as long as I’ve lived here by people (including Mr. Smith) who did it FOR THE GOOD OF THE TOWN.

    The proposed change was as ridiculous as the money we dumped into the house on Wolfe Avenue !