Wilmington Selectboard member warns against 'cutting heads'


WILMINGTON -- During initial budget talks, Selectboard member Jim Burke warned against cutting back on personnel to save the town money.

"When big corporations start cutting heads, your customer service goes down," said Burke. "These people have had their jobs for a long time. I think it's irresponsible to go on a witch hunt."

On Nov. 6, he said that job sharing was part of how the town operates after resident and business owner Cliff Duncan asked about the lister's assistant position.

Duncan, who is also a member of the newly assembled citizen review group going over the budget this year, defended his inquiry. Wilmington Selectboard Chairwoman Meg Streeter defended the review group's right to ask such questions.

"We don't have a lot of extra money to spend," she said. "We don't feel we can keep raising the tax rate. And the tax rate creeps up, which is inevitable if we don't start cutting things."

Selectboard member Susie Haughwout, who also works as the Town Clerk, thought Burke and Streeter both brought up good points. She supported Burke's "dedication to supporting town employees" and pointed out that looking at the question raised by Duncan would be good practice for Town Meeting, where voters will have the same opportunity.

"Having some discussion before is good. Perhaps, there are things we should think about," Haughwout concluded. "I don't think we should shut this down. It's valid to the process."

According Duncan, the now defunct Budget Committee had at one time or another "a clear understanding or affirmation of the staff in the town and what their duties really were." He wondered how possible it would be to figure out allocations for the staff's assistance.

"My interest is to understand how competitively we are administratively," said Duncan. "All companies have an understanding of what their staffing needs are and what their staffing resources currently are. Balancing those are the goal."

He mentioned that the population had decreased, suggesting that some of the jobs related to zoning may not be as necessary.

"The needs may be no more, but may be less," said Duncan. "How does it translate into the budget?"

The Selectboard would not be going over each position within the town, Streeter replied. Specific questions could be entertained or department heads could answer those specifically pertaining to their staff.

When Duncan brought up the position of the assistant to the listers, he asked if the board had heard anything about what their work load had been like lately.

A reappraisal had been completed in 2009. Town Manager Scott Murphy said that the listers were currently looking at land property only.

"Is a $48,000 expenditure justified?" asked Duncan

Murphy said that the assistant had been working on the two buyouts that went through FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Program, which are known as the Sprague and Brissette properties. The town now owns the land that had been damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.

"That was a task I had her do," continued Murphy. "It required a lot of time and effort on her part that's not boxed into her definition."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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