Board seeks voter OK for $60,000 welfare budget

RUMFORD — Without determining ramifications of reducing the welfare budget by $10,000 and cutting office hours, selectmen at Thursday night's special board meeting threw out a number they hope townspeople will accept.

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Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Rumford General Assistance Director Thelma Giberson, right, tries to help Selectman Greg Buccina understand how the welfare budget works, at a Board of Selectmen meeting Thursday night.

They also plan to do a better job of educating the public about General Assistance at an informational meeting on Thursday, July 1. For example, towns get reimbursed a certain percentage of what they spend.

Under the gun from a vote at the June 8 polls that rejected raising and appropriating $70,021, selectmen voted 4-1 to try $60,000 and reduce General Assistance Director Thelma Giberson's time from five to four days a week.

Chairman Brad Adley and Selectmen Greg Buccina, Mark Belanger and Jeff Sterling voted for the reduction on Belanger's motion; new Selectman Jeremy Volkernick opposed it.

Initially, selectmen attempted to learn how the welfare budget works, listening first to Mexico Town Manager John Madigan describe how Mexico handles the state-mandated law. Then, they had Giberson describe the process involved in trying to take care of townspeople in need.

“I'm amazed that the people voted it down, because it's illegal,” Madigan said of the 965-727 vote that rejected funding the welfare account.

“I don't believe the voters realized that a lot of that money in your budget is reimbursed. It's not really costing them that,” he said of the proposed $70,021.

Another thing he said most people don't realize is that General Assistance directors like Giberson actually put people to work. That's something that a part-time director or even a town manager would not be able to do, because it involves supervision, Madigan said.

“I would say as a resident, I have no problem with the $70,000 to help the needy in this community, and I hope the citizens of this town, if you present a number to them, rethink that,” Madigan said. “That's our obligation as a community, to help the people that are in need with a realistic number, and it's handled very professionally already.”

Madigan recommended keeping the same figure, but doing a better job of explaining why that amount was recommended by selectmen and the Finance Committee, or reducing it by a mere penny. He also said that Mexico pays Rumford $5,000 a year to have Giberson handle General Assistance in Mexico.

Belanger, however, said he didn't understand why Rumford couldn't have a part-time General Assistance director. He said that although the town budgeted $70,970 last year, it only spent $53,409, because more than $20,000 was reimbursed to the town by the state, Social Security and clients.

Volkernick asked Giberson to explain the process people go through when seeking General Assistance, to better understand how the budget is determined. He didn't believe an arbitrary number should be thrown out for the budget. He also said he had an issue with people who live outside Rumford coming to the town for assistance.

Giberson, however, said if Rumford doesn't help them, the town would not get reimbursed by the state and Social Security.

When asked the amount that a town is obligated to raise for welfare, Giberson said towns can pick any number they want, but they have to understand that if the account is over-drafted, that money would come out of the general fund.

Belanger then suggested having her work part-time to save costs. Giberson said that if that happened, she would quit.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Kevin Saisi's picture

Ironic

The cost of having a second election to approve a new budget for General Assistance is equal to almost half of the supposed savings that the town will get through the budget cut.

What was sad about the meeting, is that some of the board members who had been in office the longest appeared to know the least about how the General Assistance budget works.

Mandates

The state mandates that municipalities have control over ordinances governing welfare. The citizens should watch the town Business meeting on local access where Mr. Theriault stated it very well. Mr. Madigan use to do it for the town of Mexico. The town of Rumford took it over as a part of the start for consolidating services. So why not have him speak at our meetings to sway selectpersons from not taking steps to give the people of Rumford what it voted for. The citizens of Rumford should realize that the states reimbursements will be getting less so we can't give more and get back less. This position should be part or even one better it should be done within the town managers office at certain times by appt. only . Example Tues./Thurs 8 to 10. We make it to easy for trangients to keep going from town to town. It has to stop. The town of Rumford has become a haven. The town Manager and selectpersons work for the citizens. You let them know how you felt at the polls and they still don't understand. It's time to tell them to revamp the duties in the town hall.

Tom Powell's picture

homeys only

if you moved here and never worked in the area, you should not get any welfare. Secondly, the town should should start a program where welfare recipients can work for the town...picking up trash or sweep streets or cleaning the town offices before people can qualify for any welfare FROM THE TOWN. I give you that some people certainly deserve and need a little help. But I also feel just about everyone agrees that we are a welfare state and it needs to be better patrolled or overseen.

Ed McCaffrey's picture

You kinda gotta wonder

if we budgeted $70,000 last year, and were reimbursed for more than $20,000, how we managed to spend $53,000. The math doesn't add up. Also, who does Thelma Giberson think she is? If I have to work part time I'll quit???? Quit then!! I'm sure that there's some other deserving person who would accept a part-time position. It's not like you're being asked to work for free. Even at part time you'll make more than a lot of people with a full time job and you'll still have the $5k a year from Mexico.
Maybe the town ought to get into the rental business. Put some money into these buildings that they're closing and rent them out as section 8, The local landlords think it's a really lucrative opportunity.
Use that income to finance the welfare Dept.

DANNY FITZSIMMONS's picture

what is the Auctual cost

what is the Auctual cost going directly to those on general assistance?? and how much to implement it?? that is what we should be asking and it is exactly what a good reporter would have asked.

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