Rumford Finance Committee votes to restore General Assistance budget to 2009-10 amount

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Rumford Finance Committee Vice Chairman Ted Hotham asks Town Manager Carlo Puiia on Wednesday how aggressively he intends to have blighted buildings removed with the requested $22,350 for demolition.

RUMFORD — Four of seven members of the Finance Committee deviated Wednesday night from the Board of Selectmen's budget recommendation on General Assistance last month.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Rumford Town Manager Carlo Puiia explains to Finance Committee members Wednesday night why he was requesting $6,000 less for the town audit budget than last year. Selectmen last month OK'd a recommendation of $14,000 and the committee unanimously approved that as its recommendation for town meeting voters in June.

The four members increased the board's recommendation of $69,469 to $75,475.

They also restored Director Thelma Giberson's five-day work week from a three-day week. Selectmen voted to increase it from three to four days.

The other three committee dissenters voted against the $75,475 figure, because they wanted it raised even higher, Ted Hotham, committee vice chairman, said.

“It's about time we got Thelma caught up, because it's been awhile,” Hotham said. “It's now up to us and taxpayers in town to step up and do the right thing.”

Two years ago, a majority of town meeting voters cut Giberson's wage of $17.56 an hour to $12 an hour and reduced her five-day week to a three-day week, seven hours a day.

Since then, Giberson has requested each year at budget time that her wage be reset to what she was getting in 2009-10 when it was cut. Currently, she gets $15 an hour, three days a week.

On March 22, selectmen took an incremental approach trying to restore it over time, believing town meeting voters in June wouldn't go for the whole amount.

After much discussion and attempts to find an agreeable number, a majority recommended a total budget of $69,469. That gives the 21-year director an hourly wage of $16.50.

The Finance Committee's recommendation restores Giberson's hourly wage to $17.56, Hotham said.

“She brings a lot of expertise to the job and years of experience and due diligence on each applicant request, so just on that alone she saves us money,” he said.

“And she's got 21 years and I think we have to be respectful of employees who hang in there in spite of adversity,” he said.

Hotham said selectmen increased the amount that was allocated for Giberson for General Assistance.

“The manager asked for $64,622, the select board appropriated $69,469, and we approved $75,475 and with that extra money, she goes to a five-day work week,” he said.

“Instead of having two days with that office empty and others that are less experienced to have to fill in, I'm encouraged that we might be able to get this turned around,” he said.

Hotham said it will take educating the public to help them better understand what Giberson does.

“Nobody likes to have to deal with General Assistance, but every day, the need grows here, and she's going to have to tell some 55 families that the state just told her that they're no longer covered,” he said.

“So it's a tough job to sit there and listen to everyone's tale of woe, and we all have one, but she's an excellent employee and an asset and that needs to be recognized. It's not a universal view, but that was our view,” he said.

Hotham said the committee's wage restoration doesn't represent a 2    percent increase or adjustment that selectmen have recommended for many town employees this year.

“It puts her right back at what it was before it was reduced,” he said.

“If it (gets approved) like we hope it does, we're probably going to be back next year to give her a cost-of-living increase like everybody else is getting.”

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Tony Capola's picture

Town expenses

How can anyone justify salary adjustments for some and not others.

Punishing Mrs Giberson because she is responsible for a function that we all wish wasn't necessary is blantly unfair. Her salary and workhours were cut according to some elected officials "... because we can."

Like it or not General Assistance is MANDATED and if we don't comply it will cost us more in the long-run.

We are fortunate to have someone like her because she is so knowledgeable.

She, more than anyone else at the town office, is able to manage the programs and remain aware of what the rules are and how to determine if someone is gualified.

Just because her hours were cut doesn't mean the need went away. I don't like giving away our hard-earned money anymore than the next person. The economic conditions being what they are how do any of us know, with certainty, that we won't be the next person at her door.

The bottomline is that we do not have any choice when it comes to 'welfare' because if we don't step up and manage the programs someone else will and it's likely they won't live in or even near Rumford.

Mark Belanger's picture

I should learn not to type

I should learn not to type when upset.. Should have been throw....

Mark Belanger's picture

Easy Money..

It did not take long for the budgets to go back up. How sad that the boards do not accept the vote of the people of Rumford. They keep pushing untill they get what they want. I hope the taxpayers realize that these increases will show up on there October tax bill as a 1 to 2 mill increase. This does not include the school increase.
When it is not your money it is easy to thow it around and that is what is happening. I only hope the the fine people of Rumford push back and vote these budgets down..

Tony Capola's picture

Finance Committee

Mr. Hotham and the Finance Committee were, no doubt, trying to restore Mrs.
Giberson's pay to what it was nearly 3-years ago. I suspect they would like to have given her the same cost of living adjustment given to others

The General Assistance office is only open 3-days a week. Anyone with any intelligence would realize that complying with the legal requirements related to 'welfare' is a huge responsibility. Mrs. Giberson has never shrunk from her duties. Because she is abundantly knowledgeable she is able to stay within established guidelines and, at the same time, help the people that are truly in need.

We would all like to see the need for her services go away but that's to going to happen. In fact, it’s very likely that this need is going to increase. She is thorough and does not ‘rubber-stamp’ any application. If they don’t qualify they don’t receive benefits.

Let’s not make her fair compensation a referendum on public assistance. We need her to ‘mind the store’ and keep the town out of legal trouble.

 's picture

The best way...

The best way to reduce the need for general assistance is to build your local economy. By working in cooperation with the private sector to create jobs and re-purpose dilapidated properties, we reduce the need for general assistance, build the local tax base, and reduce the reliance upon other municipal services. Cutting services in an attempt to reduce need is like closing hospitals to reduce the number of people who get sick. It just doesn't work that way. We have been "holding the line" for 20+ years without much effort to expand the tax base. Sure we have had a token person working to bring in the magical industrial business that can provide 500 high paying jobs, but we cannot rely upon fairy tale solutions. We need to work to develop what we have in the region to attract people to our community. Jim Rinaldo has done very well in getting this effort underway.

From the top of our mountains to the bottom of the Androscoggin, we have a variety of recreational opportunities. I was informed that a Les Otten once told the community leaders that our area should rely upon the pulp wood industry. Well, how has that worked out for us??? Of course he didn't want us to pursue recreation, because he knew that we had much to offer, and he didn't want our community taking away from his plans up at Sunday River (which he owned at the time). It is time to stop listening to the nay-sayers and work toward a bright future in our town, community and region.

Unbelievable

" I encourage the voters of Rumford to do the right thing", quoted Mr. Hotham. The right thing to do voters of Rumford ,once again, is to vote "NO" across the ballot. The Selectboard and Finance Committee just doesn't get. There is going to be many more vacant houses in Rumford because people aren't going to be able to pay their taxes. These increases should be coming out the the Selectboard and Finance Committee persons pockets since it seems they are well to do enough to continually vote in increases.

 's picture

Hey Frank...

I don't disagree that people have a tough time making ends meet, but I wonder how many people came to the Selectmen when you were on the board for a poverty tax abatement?????????? If any, how did you vote?

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