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Pay for selectmen, assessment appeals officials recommended to stay the same

Published 12:44 pm, Monday, September 30, 2013
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The Board of Finance voted 4-0 Monday morning not to increase the compensation for the town's two selectmen, instead keeping it at $2,000 a year.

While a salary increase for the first selectman wasn't on the agenda of Monday's special meeting, the issue was raised by Representative Town Meeting member Dick Lowenstein.

He said that while the two candidates for first selectman have indicated they won't accept a salary increase even if one is approved, it doesn't mean one shouldn't be considered.

"They don't have to take something they don't want," he said of first selectman candidates Helen Garten, the Democratic finance board vice chairman, and Jim Marpe, the Republican former vice chairman of the Board of Education.

"Look who's at the bottom of the pack" salary-wise, he added of the current pay level for the first selectman. "It's Westport." Lowenstein said the last salary increase was 10 years ago.

But Janis Collins, finance board member, told Lowenstein the panel recently voted no increase for the town's top elected official.

"Our resolution was to keep the salary the same" for the first selectman at $101,475, she said. No actual dollar amount was considered during the finance board's discussions on an increase for the town's top elected office.

"I understand the point being made here," said Brian Stern, board member. He said the salary currently offered "does exclude" some people from running for that office, since it can't compare with much higher salaries, like those in "private industry."

Stern agreed "a broader discussion is needed" on the first selectman salary issue, adding the amount considered should be "$130,000 or something like that."

The board, however, did discuss benefits for the first selectmen, voting to keep them "consistent with benefits provided non-union supervisory employees of the town."

In effect, there was no change in what the first selectman currently receives, including medical benefits.

The auto allowance for first selectman was also recommended at the same level -- $4,800.

"I'm not sure an auto allowance is the right thing," said Stern. He said maybe it should be more specific and "not just a lump sum."

After some discussion, board members voted 4-0 to either provide a car or $4,800.

The board also voted 6-0 to keep the compensation for members of the Board of Assessment Appeals at $200 a year.

Avi Kaner, the finance board chairman, said that board does a lot of work during revaluation, adding, "They are not doing it for the money."

"There's no reason to be a Scrooge," Stern added prior to the vote.

The Representative Town Meeting's Employee Compensation Committee was scheduled to review the compensation issue for members of the Boards of Selectmen and Assessment Appeals when it meets Monday night. The session is set for 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.