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Rec budget to go before Mexico voters for second time
MEXICO -- By a 3-1 vote on July 10, the Board of Selectmen decided to present a second recreation budget to citizens, this one close to $30,000 less than the figure that was soundly defeated at the June 12 secret ballot vote.
That action was taken following 90 minutes of sometimes contentious workshop discussion with the Budget Committee, which voted to recommend that the town go with the result of the first vote, which would have reverted the recreation department to the 2011-12 budget figure of $93,585, about $21,000 less than the $114,842 selectmen are now recommending. Prior to that June 12 vote, the Budget Committee had recommended a rec budget of $106,811.
A town ordinance, which had not been utilized until now, allows residents to take one more vote on articles that did not pass at referendum. A public hearing would be held, followed by a town meeting and secret ballot. The other option is to go with the prior year's budget.
On June 12, residents voted 209-158 to reject $144,100 for operating the recreation program, park and building. That figure
represented a 54 percent increase over the $93,585 approved during fiscal year 2012. The more than $50,000 added to the Recreation Department account was earmarked for building and park repairs, a Recreation Department reserve fund, and nearly tripling Recreation Director Wayne Sevigny's salary to $30,000 as a fulltime director from a 20-hour per week position.
The recreation committee had met the night before to come up with ways to pare down the budget from $144,101 to $117,842.
Included was setting Sevigny's salary at the minimum state required for a 30-hour work week at $455 per week or $23,660 for the year, plus $2,869 for workmen's compensation insurance. He would not be eligible for health insurance.
The discussion included asking about having Sevigny paid hourly, but Town Manager John Madigan if he was paid hourly, he'd be entitled to overtime pay as some programs require more than 30 hours per week.
Barrett proposed $7.85 an hour for 40 hours a week, but that idea was not supported.
Budget Committee member Peter DeFilipp noted, "It's not a miniumum age job. That seems counterproductive. If you want a recreation department, you need someone to manage it. What about tying in salary to income generated?"
At an earlier meeting, Madigan noted that during his first six months on the job, Sevigny secured a $10,000 grant, installed two new dugouts and brought in revenue through basketball, soccer and baseball.
Also included in the reductions was cutting new equipment by $7,000, reducing the reserve account from $14,000 to $8,000, and taking $1,600 from custodial for the rec building. Also in this is shutting down the recreation building until the middle or end of September, saving about 600 gallons of fuel or $2,100. Madigan said with the police department no longer in this building, the only tenant this time of year in the Generations fitness, and this is their slow time of year.
When selectmen voted on this, it failed due to a 2-2 tie. Board Chairman Richie Philbrick was working late and could not attend.
Shortly after, it was decided to take an additional $3,000 from the recreation reserve account. Selectmen voted again and approved it by 3-1, with board member Reggie Arsenault casting the lone dissenting vote.
Budget Committee member Betty Barrett led the discussion to go to last year's figure rather than utilize the town ordinance for a second vote.
One Budget Committee member, Dr. Albert Aniel, went even further, arguing that the town has no role in paying for recreational pursuits.
"Nowhere is there in the charter anything that says we have to provide recreational activities for whomever. Granted, the library and recreation are extremely worthwhile. But it is my opinion that this is not the purpose of town government, especially not in this day and age," he said.
Following the vote, Byam asked Sevigny about ways recreation was going to generate revenue.
Betty Barrett noted that the vote was over and Sevigny did not need to provide that information.
Byam said he was asking for more information which would be useful for the upcoming public hearing, then again asked Sevigny to respond.
Sevigny would not go into detail but boldly announced, "The potential for income is great."
It was about this time that Budget Committee member Marjorie Richard, who usually tapes meetings for the local access station but deferred to her husband, Joe, for the taping, was heard telling Joe across the table to shut off the camera.
When he complied, it prompted some loud exchanges, including from Mabel Merrill, a Budget Committee member as well as a recreation board committee member, to say that she would be filing a complaint on this matter.
Marjorie said she thought the meeting ended with the vote, but was told that the meeting had not been adjourned.
Before the $144,100 figure was presented to voters in June, Madigan had proposed a budget of $106,500. That budget closely resembles the $104,852 recreation budget of 2009-10 and the $108,030 figure of 2010-11.
For his part, Madigan said he explained to Sevigny that "you can't do this overnight. I tried to come up with a budget that was realistic."
At their next board meeting Tuesday, selectmen will schedule a public hearing on the new proposed budget, which will be followed by a town meeting and secret ballot.
Madigan said that process will need to be completed by the end of August or early September to allow for the tax commitment to be set and tax bills to be sent out on time.