Town Meeting 2016: Positions go from elected to appointed in Dover
DOVER >> While the topic of moving from elected to appointed positions brought on plenty of discussion, all articles related to town jobs passed.
The Selectboard's decision to create a book keeper position before former treasurer Patty Westlake's retirement allowed Marco Tallini to get a feel for the job before Tuesday's election in which he ran unopposed.
"What the Selectboard did was move the majority of the treasurer's salary into a book keeping position, which essentially makes the position hired. And the treasurer position, in my opinion, should be elected," Town Clerk Andy McLean said during annual Town Meeting. "To hire a book keeper instead of electing a treasurer provides no insulation between the Selectboard and the treasurer's office."
State law says a person cannot be on the Selectboard and serve as treasurer, he told residents gathered at Town Hall, because "they need to provide a check and balance on one another." Moving the book keeper salary into the treasurer's would have only changed the situation in the sense of who Tallini would have to answer to, he said, meaning the voters. An amendment to do so did not pass.
McLean acknowledged Tallini's being "overqualified" for the position and said the town was lucky to have him.
"But we need to give him autonomy to hold a selectboard accountable," McLean said. "We don't know who's going to be sitting here five to ten years from now."
There have been no issues with previous treasurers, Selectboard Chairman Randy Terk responded, saying the decision to create a town book keeper position had to do with ensuring there would be a qualified person handling finances. One person could hold both jobs but that wasn't necessary.
Having a book keeper at Town Offices was looked at as protection in case a treasurer who did not possess desired skills was elected in the future. Officials agree the duties associated with treasurer and other town positions are growing more complicated.
"I work in conjunction with who the Selectboard has decided to be the bookkeeper in an extremely complex time," said Dover School Principal Bill Anton, adding that having a person with "appropriate qualifications has saved an enormous amount of money for all of us as taxpayers."
The Town Meeting conversation occurred after eliminating the office of lister and replacing it with an assessor appointed by the Selectboard. The same powers, duties and responsibilities would go to whoever's hired.
Another article gave stipends to the treasurer and assistant listers. The next gave the Selectboard authority to appoint a collector of delinquent taxes.
"Historically, we should have been electing a collector of delinquent taxes. We haven't been doing that. We just found out a couple months ago that we should have been doing that," Terk said. "When you don't elect a collector of delinquent taxes, it defaults to the first constable."
By appointing someone, he said, some of the penalties collected could go back into the town's General Fund. That would assist in keeping the tax rate down.
Former first constable Mary Lou Raymo's decision not to seek reelection prompted the idea.
"The compensation over the last five years for an extremely part-time position — we're talking 300 to 350 hours — has averaged $40,000," said Selectboard Vice Chairwoman Victoria Capitani. "That seemed kind of skewed in terms of the level that the normal part-time person in this town would be earning."
Voters quickly approved of raising $2,167,710 for general fund expenditures; $1,374,030 for highway costs; $650,000 for a paving fund; $250,000 for a capital equipment fund; $50,000 for a capital building improvement fund; $50,000 for a legal defense fund; $3,372 for Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies; and $5,202 for the Memorial Hall Center for the Arts Dover Cinema.
Earlier at the meeting, the elementary school's budget was reduced by $13,033. An overall figure of $3,186,350 was approved. A savings of $17,533 involved employees choosing different health care plans than previously budgeted for. An increase of $4,500 was added to account for School Board member stipends.
Contact Chris Mays at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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