TOWNSEND — With less than a week before Town Meeting, tempers flared at a Finance Committee meeting over how the committee’s budget recommendations should be made.
By not including a column with the committee’s recommendations in the budget, the town administrator is being deceptive, member Carolyn Smart said during Thursday’s meeting.
At issue is Town Administrator Andy Sheehan’s salary, currently $80,000. Selectmen negotiated a contract giving Sheehan a $15,000 raise for fiscal 2014. The Finance Committee recommended a $6,000 raise, a 7.5 percent increase.
The budget Sheehan prepared for review did not have a column with the committee’s recommendations. It included department requests and the selectmen’s recommendations.
The budget “has never gone to Town Meeting without the Finance Committee’s recommendations,” Smart said.
“Yes, it has,” Sheehan said.
The committee’s role is that of an adviser. The committee makes a recommendation sheet presented at Town Meeting about the articles which includes the budget article as recommended by selectmen.
“It’s not worth fighting about it. The Finance Committee budgets have always gone into the package we prepare,” she said.
She asked Sheehan to send an electronic copy of the budget for review, saying she had asked for it in the past and did not receive it.
“All you had to do was ask me,” Sheehan said.
“I did,” she responded.
Not including the committee’s recommendation on the same sheet as the selectmen’s recommendations could guarantee Sheehan’s raise, FinCom clerk Andrea Wood said. The only part of the selectmen’s budget the committee did not recommend was Sheehan’s $15,000 raise.
“I have every expectation one of you will stand up” to oppose the raise, Sheehan said.
“That’s not all I’ll do,” Smart said.
“Don’t threaten me,” Sheehan replied.
Chairman Nancy Rapoza interrupted, asking if the committee would be meeting the next night.
“Would you like a third column? There’s one number that’s different. Fine, I’ll give you a third column,” Sheehan said.
That was the only issue, Rapoza said.
“We’ll meet tomorrow night when he adds the third column and we can vote it,” Smart said.
“It sounded like there’s a new chairman,” Sheehan replied.
An additional $25,000 for snow and ice operations is expected to be added to the budget. The increase was agreed on by both the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee on April 16 but was not included in the budget reviewed May 2.
In reviewing the the 2.5 percent salary and wage increases the selectmen approved for nonunion, noncontract employees, Wood discovered a $2 shortfall in each of the gas, plumbing, sealer and electric inspector budgets.
After checking his figures, Sheehan said, “I left off the 2.5 percent for the alternate. When you add that in, it’s $2. Good catch.”
Other discrepancies she found are the result of the original figures provided by department heads. The amounts in the budget are correct.
Some departments provided figures calculated by a 52-week year, not the correct 52.2-week year, Sheehan said.
Other additions to the budget include $1,000 to the animal control officer budget for quarantine-related expenses. Smart said those duties are the responsibility of the animal inspector and the expenses should be on that line.
The duties are included in the ACO job description, Sheehan said.
A longevity increase of $300 for the Board of Health administrator was inserted and the landfill engineering contract amount for fiscal 2014 is higher than the previous year. It was raised from $17,500 to $20,000.
The grand total of the town budget as recommended by the selectmen, excluding the Water Department, is $17,066,244, including the $25,000 increase to winter operations.
The Water Department is a self-supporting budget that was not discussed by the Finance Committee. That requested and recommended budget is $802,676.
Colin McNabb resigned from the committee. He was elected to the Board of Selectmen on April 30.