RUMFORD — Nine department heads pitched their budgets for 2011-12 in about three hours Thursday night in front of three selectmen and Town Manager Carlo Puiia.
Board Chairman Brad Adley and Selectmen Greg Buccina and Jeremy Volkernick questioned most department heads. Selectmen Mark Belanger and Jeff Sterling were absent.
Code Enforcement Officer Richard Kent began the hearing, presenting a budget of $49,735, in which he said he gave himself a 3 percent raise. Last year's budget was $41,945, Adley said.
Town Clerk Beth Bellegarde followed, going through each item and into elections, during which she said absentee ballots are increasing, which drives up costs.
In the last election, there were 800 absentee ballots, she said.
“Even in smaller elections, we're seeing 500 to 600 absentee ballots,” she said.
Tax Collector John Giambattista said he gave his deputies a 2 percent wage increase and took a 4 percent increase for himself. Of his wage hike, he said it would bring him to the same wages that Puiia made as tax collector in 2007-08.
“I think that's fair,” said Giambattista, who was elected to the job in June 2009.
Assessor Linnell Geronda said she gave a coworker a 2 percent wage increase, but kept her wages the same, despite not getting an increase last year.
“I get the feeling that some people are not getting treated fairly, equally,” Volkernick said of the perceived wage inequities.
Geronda also said she will be seeking two new members to the Board of Assessors because Peter Perry just passed away and Brian Gagnon won't seek re-election.
General Assistance Director Thelma Giberson, whose budget and hours townspeople reduced significantly last year in three elections, asked for more pay and more work hours.
“I'm proposing to get what was taken from me,” she said. She also put in for a 2 percent wage increase.
Voters reduced her wages to $12 an hour and work time to 12 hours a week, which Puiia attributed to a general lack of knowledge by voters about the state-mandated position.
“We were painted into a corner by the voters' mandates,” Puiia said of the reduction in time and wages.
Giberson said she also budgeted her work-time to three days a week. She said her rate of pay hike “is warranted by my experience and knowledge of state laws.”
Prior to last year, the office was open five days a week.
“We've got to have a budget that's going to work,” Adley said.
Giberson said she'd worked for the town for 20 years.
“I'm at $12 an hour and now I'm the lowest paid person,” she said.
She increased her pay to $17.56 per hour, which doesn't include the 2 percent raise, she said.
“She's asking for 2 percent and we're giving union employees 3 percent,” Volkernick said, shaking his head.
“That's not being treated equally. It comes up every time.”
Fire Chief Bob Chase and Public Works Superintendent Andy Russell had yet to present their budget requests by 9:45 p.m.
Of those who did present budgets, few mentioned the totals because selectmen had the documents in front of them.