Selectmen eye changes to elected positions

BEACON FALLS — The Board of Selectmen wants to make the town clerk and tax collector full-time positions that are hired rather than elected.

The positions are part-time now and up for election every two years.

First Selectman Christopher Bielik raised the idea at Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting. Selectmen Peter Betkoski and Michael Krenesky both supported the notion.

“I have been supporting the idea of taking those positions and making them full time for a long time,” Krenesky said.

However, making the change is far more complicated than just the town saying it would like to do so.

Since Beacon Falls does not have a town charter, what positions are elected in town is governed by a special act of the state legislature that was passed in the 1940s, Bielik said.

In order to amend the act, the town needs to hold a town meeting and a nonbinding vote that shows the residents, which are the governing body of the town, are in favor of the change, Bielik said. If the residents vote in favor of it, the board will have to contact state legislators to let them know the town approves of the changes. Another special act will have to be written and approved by the state legislature to override the original act, he said.

“If the town is behind it, they will be the ones to introduce it, push it through, and make it happen for us,” Bielik said.

The board is planning to hold a town meeting on Jan. 3 at Woodland Regional High School to discuss and vote on the change. The time for the meeting hasn’t been set yet.

Currently, the town clerk is paid $4,800 a year and the tax collector makes $12,000 annually. Bielik said the town is creating a list of what towns similar to Beacon Falls pay the positions in order to get an idea for fair wages for the jobs.

Bielik said officials will have more information to present at the town meeting.

Bielik said the change makes financial sense since about 90 percent of the town’s revenue comes from the tax collector’s office and 10 percent comes from the town clerk’s office.

“To think that the department heads that work for us are beyond our direct administrative control because they are elected, from a purely business standpoint, has never made any sense to me at all. It absolutely seems like now is a good time to do this,” Bielik said.

Bielik said the town has been lucky to have Tax Collector Mary Anne Holloway working the past four years and putting in extra hours for a minimal salary.

“We can’t expect to be so lucky in the future. So it only makes fiduciary sense to us to make this change,” Bielik said.

According to Bielik, Town Clerk Len Greene supports the change.

Holloway said the change would benefit the town in the long run. She said there is a steep learning curve and things can get overlooked when a new person is elected.

“Since coming aboard I realized the town of Beacon Falls needs to have a hired tax collector,” Holloway said. “It would benefit the town to have some who is here full time.”