Most Rumford dept heads seek wage hikes when pitching budgets

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.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal photo

Town Clerk/Treasurer Beth Bellegarde, right, answers the first of three questions from Selectman Jeremy Volkernick on Thursday night while pitching her proposed 2011-12 budget. Listening from left are Selectmen Chairman Brad Adley, Town Manager Carlo Puiia and Selectman Greg Buccina.

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.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

pay raises

shame on the dept heads by not hold cost down and asking for raises. i wish i could give myself a raise but the turth is i havent had one in 3 years as the company i work for battles a tough economy they also stopped matching my 401k and now my taxes are going to go up again? "I'm at $12 an hour and now I'm the lowest paid person" really really how much do you want? how much is everybody getting? we know what the tax payers are getting a higher tax bils.

UNBELIEVABLE

In the time of rising costs the department heads are attempting to bankrupt the town of Rumford with their requests. Thank you Linnell Geronda for your consideration of the tax payers of our town. All department heads should follow her lead in their budget requests.
The select board should take the hard line across the board and hold the line on any and all increases in department budgets.
Approval of increases of pay above the proposed 3 percent is not keeping with the current climate of state and national reductions of costs.
For the population of Rumford the current levels of service employees should be decreased to lower cost levels; and in certain departments there are ways to reduce costs effectively without increasing manpower. Department heads need to become a working participent and not just an administrator.
With what is happening at the state and national levels the select board should realize that they need to be cost effective in all matters to money requests. If any member of the board is unable to step up to the plate and to do what is right then they should take themselves out of the ballgame because they would be doing an injustice to the people who put them in office.

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