May 24, 2020

Enfield residents suggest ways to cut budget

ENFIELD — Concerned about high taxes, some residents suggest the town consider eliminating curbside trash service and reducing the hours and pay rates of town office employees.

More than 30 residents attending the annual budget meeting Monday, expressing mixed views about whether town employees should get raises.

When residents consider the budget at the annual town meeting in March, the accounts will reflect a 3.7 percent pay increase. In a straw poll, residents favored including the raise in budgets so townspeople could decide the issue.

Chairman Carl Cloukey said the budget proposal included no pay increases. He outlined current employee pay rates, rates recommended by selectmen and rates recommended by the Budget Committee. He said the total budget impact for a 3.7 percent pay increase would be $4,298.

Resident Lionel Strong wanted to know whether the selectmen’s recommendation was to give the 3.7 percent pay increase, but reduce hours for some employees by 25 percent.

Resident Heidi Stevens asked if officials had considered reducing employees’ hours, having furlough days or closing the town office a day or two a month.

Town Manager Peggy Daigle said the office could be closed, but it would be difficult to provide the same level of services.

Vinal Applebee said Howland town employees were paid less than Enfield employees. He said Howland had a police department, a water department and a sewer department, and Enfield did not.

Resident Sandra Paradis said that when the town changed to a town manager form of government, she and others believed the clerk would be paid less.

“Their hourly wages now are like $9 an hour,”Paradis said. “There are a lot of people in this town working for $6.25 an hour and for the minimum. We are getting to a place where we can’t afford this type of expense.”

Daigle said the proposed town accounts represented an 8 percent decrease and one reason those accounts were down was the detailed work to get additional revenue for the town.

Another woman said she understood the assistant clerk’s hours would be cut when the manager form of government went into effect. Daigle said she had no justification for reducing the hours. “I don’t see that it is in the best interest of this town to cut services … to cut the two people in the front office and keep me.”

Saying he was the biggest opponent of the town manager form of government, Strong said the average salary discussed was about $31,000 a year, and the town paid $26,000. He said the “great labor-saving device of the century,” the computer system, had cost the town about $75,000 and would continue to cost the town more. “The raise we were talking about for town employees is nothing compared to the loss we have suffered. We have thrown $70,000 down a rate hole so we can be more efficent than we are,” he said.

Daigle said the town had spent a lot on the computer system, that she never would have recommended the system because everything associated with it was three to four times more expensive than a standard system.

In reviewing the landfill accounts, which total $77,140, Stevens suggested the town consider eliminating curbside trash service and charge fees for disposal of items such as white goods. She suggested that budget be reduced by $10,000.

After discussion, residents indicated that no funds should be included in the budget to pay stipends for the Board of Appeals and the Budget Committee. Members of those committees said they would volunteer to serve, that they had not asked for the stipend. Laura Blanch said people seemed to argue about “nickels and dimes” in the town budget yet no one showed up to review the school budget of more than $1 million. “We would rather be worried about $1,000 and not over a million dollars. I would do this again (serve on the Budget Committee) for free.”

Despite arguments about an increased workload from Peter Fisher, a Planning Board member, full funding of board stipends was voted down 10-8. The first straw vote to raise $3,500 rather than the $1,600 proposed resulted in a tie vote.

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