BUCKFIELD — After 5½ hours, the select board finally solved its dilemma late Tuesday night on how to cut nearly $8,000 from the budget that pays for administrative services.

Nearly half of that chunk will come from one longtime employee covered under the health insurance family plan, who will have to start paying a portion of his or her health care.

That employee was previously grandfathered under the family plan, with the town paying 100% of the health costs, but will now be required to contribute 25% of that cost from Jan 1, 2021, through June 3o, 2021. That amount will grow to 50% on July 1., the start of the new fiscal year.

After residents twice rejected budget proposals for administration, the board was forced to take more drastic measures.

The previous votes, which both failed by approximately 20 percentage points, left the select board having to trim the budget to match the 2019-20 budgeted amount.

Selectman Martha Catevenis suggested several cuts, but admitted she could only locate a little more than $4,000 of the required $7,955 needed to be cut.

The board agreed that few other areas in the budget were available from which to cut nearly $4,000 — benefits, wages or cutting back on the hours that the town office was open.

The new budget includes a full time office assistant, which is currently a part time position. The board was reluctant to cut that position back.

“It’s in the best interest of the town that we make this a full-time position,” board Chairman Tina Brooks said.

With most town employees already paying a portion of their own health insurance, the board saw an opportunity to save money by asking that one employee to start paying for a portion of their health insurance.

Working with interim Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz, Catevenis attempted to come up with an acceptable proposal, saying she struggled to find the “correct verbiage.”

The board had to first get rid of the grandfather clause before adopting the new health insurance requirement.

To meet the remainder of the $7,955, the select board eliminated a computer upgrade for the office assistant, a new laptop for the town manager, plus some miscellaneous expenses, including funds for spring water for the office water cooler.

The board postponed any action on the loan amount for plow trucks.

In the coming weeks, the board will also need to decide what to do with the fire department tanker. Berkowitz reported that the tank, supports and the auxiliary boxes are in worse condition than anticipated. He said that initial estimates were approximately $14,000, but could be much higher.

“To do nothing is not an option, and it will have major impacts on our response and services,” Berkowitz said.

Tuesday’s meeting ran late into the night, adjourning at 11:27 p.m.


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