PALMYRA — Eleven people conducted a detailed review of the proposed $403,947 1998 budget in Palmyra on Saturday as part of preparation for the annual March town meeting.
With onetime administrative assistant Pat White leading the discussion, few changes in the budget were overlooked.
Selectmen were the first to come under White’s probing when he spotted an increase in the board’s stipend for service. That account took a jump from $500 a person to $1,000.
“They’re not overpaid, that’s for sure,” said budget committee member Jack Dyer, responding to a discussion of the board’s responsibilities.
“No one here is doing it for the money,” said Selectman Dan Sprague. “We were just hoping more money might attract some new people.”
The 1998 budget proposal reflects an increase of $31,525 over the 1997 budget, but selectmen do not feel the change will affect the mill rate.
The largest increase in an individual account is in the town charges, an account for operating the town office — utilities, office supplies, wages and insurance. That line item rose from $75,000 last year to $88,000 in the new proposal.
Adding a fax machine to the office required an additional phone line, the committee was told. In addition, an hourly pay increase was proposed for one employee. The budget did not specify which of the three town office employees would be given the raise.
Wage increases were a sore point with the people that attended the budget review. Any townspeople attending this annual meeting make up the budget committee.
“Last year, raises weren’t mentioned, but you gave them anyway. And we came up short,” Sally Withee, another member of the committee, said to selectmen.
Budget committee members were not opposed to wage increases, but emphasized all employees should be treated fairly and no one person singled out for a raise if others weren’t getting one.
Shortfalls in the 1997 budget required a special town meeting to make corrections and avoid overdrafts. For 1998, selectmen proposed a $5,000 contingency fund to avoid that problem.
Palmyra residents straggled in and out throughout the morning as the volunteer committee continued the review. White’s familiarity with the budget and the review process ultimately sped up the session.
In a predictable move, the self-appointed budget committee gave a resounding “no” to a proposal to elect budget committee members in the future.
It marks the second year that proposal has been included in the town warrant. It wasn’t favored previously, and it’s not expected to be approved this time. The budget committee in Palmyra is likely to continue as it is — anyone interested enough to show up can participate.