Raises for Pownal clerk, treasurer debated

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POWNAL — After a sometimes heated discussion, the Select Board voted 4-1 to approve $1,000 raises each for the town treasurer and the town clerk.

The raises were approved Thursday over the objections of board member Marlena Pellon, who voiced concern about the impact of the decision on taxpayers.

"Again, I feel the treasurer's salary is extremely high," she said.

The town clerk and the town treasurer are both elected officials.

"The taxpayers are paying their [health] insurance premiums," Pellon said. She asked if the board wanted to provide more raises on top of that.

"I think our future budget — we can have this discussion," said Harry Percey Jr. "And do comparables. It's already been approved by A, the voters, and B, the former Select Board."

Pellon responded that the board is not bound to those decisions.

"He didn't say we have to," said Bob Jarvis, speaking about Percey. "He's recommending that we do."

"I'm sorry," Pellon said. "I'm looking out for the taxpayers. We want to increase the town treasurer's salary who won't give the EIN number to the town clerk."

Pellon did not elaborate on her comment at the meeting, and the board did not discuss it.

When reached Friday, Ellen Strohmaier, town treasurer, said she had no comment.

Chairman Bryan Harris said that the board can discuss changes during the next budget process.

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Pellon then suggested the town cut the portion of the health insurance premium it pays, if the raises were put in place.

"It's health insurance," said Elizabeth Rowe, vice chairwoman. "I just don't understand why you're going back to this."

Every board member except Pellon voted to approve the raises. They did not vote on changing health insurance premium payments.

The higher wages for the town treasurer and town clerk were provided for in the budget voters approved in March, which covers July 1 to June 30, 2020, said Town Administrator Michael Walker when reached Friday.

The town treasurer's pay was budgeted at $32,800 for 2019-20 budget. The clerk's salary was budgeted at $13,000.

There was a question whether the board could decline to provide the raises if the previous board had voted for them specifically, Walker said.

He said he didn't know whether that was the case, but it is a moot point, as this board voted to approve the raises.

"The board has the authority to give raises [or] not give raises, and manage the budget," he said.

Asked why the clerk and treasurer raises did not go into effect at the start of the fiscal year, July 1, Harris said the board "just wanted to have more discussion on it, and we wanted to look into some questions that we had."

There was some concern, but it was unfounded, he said. He said he could not answer if there was concern regarding whether the board could possibly not implement the raises, as that relates to executive session discussion.

"All I can say is, it warranted discussion amongst the Select Board," he said.

A 50-cent-per-hour wage increase went into effect July 1 for every town employee, besides the treasurer, clerk, listers and town administrator, Walker said.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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