MINOT — Appalled by the Androscoggin County commissioners’ decision to ignore cuts the county Budget Committee made to the commissioners’ salaries and benefit packages, selectmen Monday voted to support the committee’s action.
According to county Budget Committee member Emily Tuttle, the committee voted to eliminate the commissioners’ health insurance benefits and slash their salaries to $3,000 a year. The commissioners said the committee didn’t have authority to set their salaries and benefits and approved a budget that restored their health insurance and boosted their salaries to $5,000.
Tuttle said the commissioners’ actions caught the Budget Committee quite by surprise.
“We were definitely disappointed,” she said.
Tuttle said this was the second budget being set under the new county charter, that some cuts were made a year ago but this year, with the number of commissioners expanding to seven and a county administrator scheduled to come on board shortly, this was the time to make adjustments.
She said one of the changes made in the charter reduced the Budget Committee’s role to “advisory,” however, the writers of the charter also included a provision that gave the Budget Committee the power to override the commissioners when something passed with the support of 11 of the Budget Committee’s 14 members, she said.
Selectmen were not pleased with the commissioners’ actions.
“In what part of the world do you get full benefits for working a couple of hours a week?” Selectman Dean Campbell asked.
“Wrong on so many levels,” Selectman Dan Gilpatric said.
“Just plain bad government,” Selectman Dan Callahan said.
“If we did something like that here in Minot, we’d be gone,” Selectman Eda Tripp said.
“I can understand allowing (Commissioners Elaine) Makas and (Beth) Bell to finish out their terms with the benefits in force when they were elected,” Selectman Steve French said.
Tuttle said she didn’t believe the last word had been spoken on the matter.
“It will take some time to sort it out; we’re in a holding pattern,” she said.
The chairman of the Budget Committee, Michael Marcotte, is checking out options and is looking to see what the response might be from county towns.
“Without the check of the Budget Committee, the commissioners could set whatever they want (for salary and benefits),” Tuttle said. “There was a time the commissioners gave themselves (health) benefits for life.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect that the proposed drop in commissioners’ salary was set at $3,000 by the Budget Committee.