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Mexico board refuses to revisit raise issue
MEXICO -- The focus on the Aug. 27 special town meeting was supposed to be articles to help the town to maintain the current tax rate. Instead, the 25 citizens present wanted to talk about the selectmen's action to reinstate raises in town administration.
At the July 30 town meeting, voters approved 10 of 11 budget articles to provide an operating budget for the town. The one article not approved, by 148-142, was $354,821 requested for municipal administration. The $348,629 adopted for fiscal year 2012-13 will be used for administration. It is slightly lower than the defeated amount.
Because the defeated article did not reflect the 3 percent raise in pay for people in the town office (including Town Manager John Madigan) to match what the other town employees are getting, Madigan, at the previous Board of Selectmen's meeting, recommended the board honor that 3 percent by using $6,100 out of the $9,500 stipend the town received from the Sewer District (for use of town supplies and utilities). Selectmen voted unanimously in favor of doing that.
On Aug. 27, Selectman George Byam said, "The people voted on the total package. It's up to us, as selectmen, and we did, to honor our employees and all the rest of them, with a 3 percent raise. We went back to last year's figure for the total department budget."
Citizen Marjorie Richard said, "I really think it's a slap in the face to vote 'no' and then have someone turn around and take my 'no' vote and turn it into a 'yes.' I voted 'no' because I meant 'no.'"
Citizen Albert Aniel said, "Besides voting 'no,' there's also the spirit in which that vote was cast. The only reason that salaries were increased in administration is because was manipulated, shifted from the sewer to pay for the increase. This has never been done before."
Board Chairman Richie Philbrick interjected, "Now that we voted for it, now it's going to be all the time."
Aniel continued, "The fact that you did that was to preserve the raises (for administration). That is violation of the spirit of a budget. In my opinion, that was self-serving thievery and you've been dishonest with the voters."
Madigan said, "The money coming in for that has been paid by the Sewer District. We're just running it through our books. We always have. To me, the way to be able to do that, and always live within last year's budget, to a tune of $6,100."
Selectman Byron Ouellette, who voted for the measure earlier, said in hindsight that it wasn't the right thing to do. "I think it may be a big mistake. It didn't pass the sniff test."
He made a motion "to revisit and not give the 3 percent raises."
However, the motion died for lack of a second.
As for the special meeting, citizens voted to take $300,000 from the town’s surplus and from the reimbursement from the Maine State Retirement fund to offset some of the tax liability.
Selectmen had recommended a combined $280,000, but residents increased that to $300,000.
As a result of that action, the board, during the regular meeting that followed, set the tax rate at $25 per $1,000 valuation following a special town meeting this week. It is the same amount as this year’s tax rate.
Property tax bills will be mailed in a couple of weeks. The first payment is due by Oct. 25. The second half is due by March 7, 2014.
In other business, Madigan announced that the survey is now complete and the parcel is now set to sell the former SAD 43 central office building. However, the investors that expressed an interest in purchasing the building met recently with Realtor Roger Whitehouse of Riverside Realty, and told him they have decided to buy the building.
Madigan said the town would have realized roughly $85,000 from that $100,000 sale.
The board voted 3-2 to table appointing Travis Luce as a reserve police officer until he can come to a meeting to be introduced. Luce, who came up through the Explorer program, has completed the 100 hour course.
Selectmen a toll road fund-raiser for the Mexico Firemen’s Relief Association on Sept. 21.
They also set the date for the annual Night of Appreciation for Oct. 17. Residents are invited to submit the names and letters of recommendations of candidates for the honors of Citizen of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Full-Time (municipal)
Employee of the Year, and Part-Time (municipal) Employee of the Year.
The board signed a mutual aid agreement with the Dixfield Police Department.
The next board meeting will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 24.