The Tuftonboro budget committee held its most recent meeting on November 1. The board discussed a 2% “merit” raise and an automatic 1.5% “cost of living adjustment” increase in salaries for town employees. This is in addition to the 15% increase in the employee-compensation budget line, approved earlier this year. Keep in mind that employee benefits are based on their salaries, so employee benefits will increase whenever salaries increase. Have you had that kind of raise in your own job in the last couple of years?
Steve Brinser, the vice chair of the budget committee, is concerned that the town is raising costs: “We have people in town who for the past two years, they’re on social security, they got zero increase, but we continue to increase the costs to taxpayers, even though their income isn’t keeping pace with the increased costs.”
Carla Lootens, the chairman of the budget committee, replied that not many people in town fall into that category, whereas “so much of our money comes from” waterfront and island properties. She said: “Out of 695 waterfront properties, do you know that 459 of them are owned from people out of state? They pay taxes here.”
Bob Theve, a member of the committee, interjected, “I’m one of those people that, you know, is on social security, isn’t taken care of, and I have an option, if I don’t want to live here—I don’t have to live here. If I don’t like the tax structure, I can go to another town.”
Helen Hartshorn, also a member of the budget committee, stated: “I want to make sure our town employees are making a living wage. I don’t want to see them be under what a living wage is.” Steve asked her what a living wage is, what figure she had in mind. She had no answer. Town employees currently make, on average, about twice as much as the average resident in Tuftonboro. The median full-time income for women in Tuftonboro is $30,962; for men, it is $44,493. Average those together and you get $37,727.50. The average full-time town employee in Tuftonboro receives more than $70,000 in compensation. The fire chief, for instance, receives more than $46,000 annually just for his retirement and health benefits.
Rick Sager, the selectmen’s attorney, recently stated in a Facebook posting that he believes our town budget was “too miserly in the past.” This was in response to former budget committee member Bob McWhirter stating that Tuftonboro has increased spending by more than $800,000 in the past five years.
Do you agree with Steve Brinser we should continue to keep our costs in check so that Tuftonboro has among the lowest municipal tax rates in the state? Or do you agree with Carla that it doesn’t matter if we raise costs because “so much of our money” comes from rich out-of-staters who can’t vote in local elections? Do you agree with Bob that if you don’t like the costs the budget committee imposes on you, you should just move to another town? Do you think that a person bringing in $70,000 in total compensation is earning less than “a living wage”? The 2016 budget appropriation was $3,997,649.00. Does that sound miserly to you?
The next budget committee meeting is November 15 at 4PM at the town offices.