The Whitehall town board is looking to cut wherever it can.
Board members discussed several cost-cutting measures at the Oct. 20 town budget meeting, including cutting the pay of the town clerk and town highway superintendent.
“If we make the town clerk a part-time salary position, I think that there is a chance for reduction here,” said town councilman David Waters. “The main thing that she does while she is here is sell dump tickets, and she could be in the office on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and work from her home the rest of the week.”
Town clerk Julie Millett agreed that the majority of her workload at the town offices was selling transfer station stickers.
“Mondays and Thursdays are pretty slow around here,” said Millett.
Town supervisor Vernon Scribner said that he felt the clerk needed to be in the office.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I have been here when Kandi (Bruce, supervisors clerk and budget officer) was here alone and she gets pretty busy. I’ve even left when I had something I wanted to talk to her about because I wanted her to focus on her work.”
The town clerk is currently paid $19,361 annually.
The town board also looked into the possibility of cutting the town highway superintendents’ salary in half, from just over $36,000 to just over $18,000.
“You cannot do that in the middle of a [superintendent’s] term,” said Kenneth Bartholomew, a village trustee who attended the meeting.
“I spoke with the Association of Towns, and they said that you can have a referendum vote on the matter,” said Scribner. “If the town voted for the pay cut, it would take affect after the next election.”
The board also looked at the proper raise to give members of the highway department.
“I think that we should give them a three-percent raise,” said Scribner. “They do a good job and they are out there for 40 hours a week.”
“There are other areas where you are only giving two-percent increases, and I think that we should stay constant with that,” said Waters.
Councilman Farrell Prefountaine said that he would vote for the three percent raise, while councilman David Hollister was unable to attend the meeting. The matter was tabled.
Members of the town board and Scribner agreed that their positions would operate on a zero percent raise, while Bruce would receive a two-percent raise.
Members of the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Department were on hand to discuss their budget concerns and see what the town could offer as an increase.
“We are faced with the same things you are in terms of the state mandating that we do things but providing no money whatsoever to accomplish those mandates,” said department president Ray Downs. “We used to test the hoses and the pumpers ourselves. Now you need the state to come in and do that.”
Downs said that the department has also seen a sharp decrease in money brought into the department through fundraising efforts.
“Ten years ago, we would raise $70,000-to-$80,000 on bingo alone,” said Downs. “This year, we made about $10,000.”
The fire department currently receives $10,000 from the village government and $54,000 from the town.
When asked if the Whitehall and Skenesborough Fire Departments would ever think about consolidation, Downs responded with his own question.
“I would then ask when the next time is the town board is going to sit down with the village board to talk consolidation,” said Downs. “If you want my honest answer, it is probably never going to happen.”
“I think you are going to see it sooner than you think on both ends,” said Waters. “I think the next election will be about the people voicing their opinion over consolidation.”
Town board members did not finalize an increase for the fire department, tabling the matter until the next meeting, which they set for Tuesday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. at the town offices.
Overall, the town board will continue to look at possible funding cuts in the festival, town clerk, dog control, safety officer, highway superintendent and highway worker portions of the budget, while continuing to discuss what, if any, increase to give the fire department.
After the Oct. 28 meeting, the town has scheduled a public hearing on the 2009 preliminary budget for Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. at the town offices.