T he Whitehall Town Council started its Nov. 17 meeting faced with a 15.36-percent tax rate increase to fund the 2011 town spending plan.
In the end, the councilmen were able to cut the final number to 13.62-percent, but it was not easy.
Members of the council voted to not give any pay raises to elected officials or to the combined supervisor and DPW clerk and budget officer position, while accepting the 3.5-percent increase that was negotiated through the Department of Public Works’ new contract.
“I’m making the motion that the DPW is the only raises that we give this year and the only reason is because of the contract we just signed with them,” said Town Supervisor Richard “Geezer” Gordon. “This affects the three other positions (town clerk, highway superintendent and clerk/budget officer).”
“In the current budget, none of the elected officials were getting a raise except for (town clerk) Elaine (Jones),” said Councilman Richard LaChapelle.
“You could get into a position where the department employees are making more than the highway superintendent,” said budget officer Kathy Jones.
“At straight salary, they will be at around $15 an hour and I am at $17 an hour,” said superintendent Louie Pratt.
“In the end, I think that Kathy should get a raise, but I do not think that one elected official should get a raise if none of the other elected officials are getting a raise,” said LaChapelle.
Proposals to give everyone 2-percent raises and to give the position held by Jones a 2-percent raise were both defeated by matching 3-2 votes.
Councilman David Hollister said he felt no raises should be in the new budget at all.
“I don’t agree with the raises for the men, so I am voting no on this budget no matter what you do,” said Hollister.
“No matter what, we can’t have a budget that has a 13-percent increase to the tax rate,” said Councilman Jim Putorti.
The board looked at other areas to cut spending, including a $10,000 decrease to the building fund of the budget from $35,000 to $25,000.
LaChapelle asked if the board could also look at more cuts in other areas, like the highway department.
“I think that Louie has stripped himself of enough,” said Councilman Farrell Prefountaine.
“How about we lay off a man,” asked Pratt.
“We’re not laying off anyone,” said LaChapelle. “But you can’t nickel and dime in one spot and then say that everything else is off the table. If you are going to grab, there are more places to grab.”
At the end of the meeting, Gordon asked for a vote on the budget. Putorti made a motion for the vote, with Hollister offering a second.
The vote then went in favor of adopting the budget, with Prefountaine, Putorti and Gordon voting for the budget while LaChapelle and Hollister voted against the plan.