More in News
Mexico board again refuses to revisit raise issue
MEXICO -- For the second straight meeting, the Board of Selectmen refused to support a request by Selectman Byron Ouellette to revisit an earlier 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 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, including Ouellette, voted unanimously in favor of doing that.
Near the end of the Sept. 24 meeting, under selectmen's report, Ouellette said, "It still isn't sitting good with the way I interpreted it. I talked with a lawyer from MMA (Maine Municipal Association) and they didn't seem to think it was correctly done because we were only supposed to have used the amount of money to run the administration part of the budget and we're diverting money from the Sewer District to pay the 3 percent increases for salaries."
"I really believe that it wasn't the intention of the voters that voted that particular article down, and I would like to see an article put in the November ballot to okay the 3 percent increase, so that it will be above board and if the people the 3 percent increase paid to the employees, then they can vote it in. If they don't want it, they can vote it down," he said.
Selectman George Byam responded, "Byron, the issue was, at the time, the office and John (Madigan) the only ones not getting a raise. The consensus of the majority of the selectmen, it was nothing voted on, the consensus in talking to John, was that we should give these girls, who are just as deserving as anybody else, the 3 percent raise. We asked John if we could do this within the budget and with what we had coming into the department without raising the administrative figure that the town voted on. What John found is that the girls in the office take care of all the sewer department paperwork and at the end of the year, the sewer department pays us $9,500 that just goes into the account and not accounted for in their salaries. So this year, we took that money, which we're already receiving, and allocated it to the 3 percent raises, we needed $6,000. We didn't draw any money from the sewer department."
Board Chairman Richie Philbrick said the remaining $3,500 will go back into the general fund.
Ouellette said, "This $9,000 would have normally gone to the general fund and was diverted to pay the 3 percent increases. So essentially, it's going into this administrative budget to pay that 3 percent increase. So that budget is not the same."
Madigan said, "The townspeople voted x amount of dollars, meaning last year's budget. And we have in the budget last year's budget. We just stopped paying the girls in the office. We had to make up $6,100. And what the sewer district pays for those girls for doing their work is about $6,500, because some of it was for workers comp. They completely reimburse us and then there's about $2,800 that pays overhead for their use of electricity, heat, coffee machine, etc. We were not going to overdraw the budget. We simply aren't going to run the sewer district's salaries through our books."
"I've always budgeted it so that every year I've presented a budget, it shows specifically how much of those salaries is coming from the sewer district. So when George (Byam) asked me how we can still give the girls a raise because everybody else is getting one, how can we do it? I saw that and looked at that; that allows us to not overdraw our budget. One shot, you just stop running the sewer district money through our books," he said.
Ouellette said, "You're only supposed to be using x amount of dollars from last year's funds. That's it."
Madigan said, "That's what we have in the budget. That's what we're using."
Ouellette said, "But you're putting in another $6,500 from another direction to pay for the salaries, and I think that is illegal. And the lawyer thought so, too. And that's why she said if you put it to people to vote on in November, it would make it legal to take the $6,500 out of surplus."
Madigan said, "Let me know who you talked to and I will explain what we did to them and maybe they'll have a different opinion, I don't know. We're not going to overdraw what the town authorized us to spend for administration, and that is what we're required to do."
Ouellette said, "I still don't agree. That wasn't the intention of the voters."
Madigan said, "The line item for the girls is going to be underfunded because we're not going to run those sewer district monies through there. And the line item for the others is going to be over. At the end of the day, it will be balance so that we're not going to be overdraw the total amount of money."
Ouellette's motion to place an article put in the November ballot to okay the 3 percent increase died for lack of a second.