Chatham ekes out pay hike while minding tax cap

CHATHAM–The Town Board adopted a $3.6-million budget last week, which includes 3% raise for eight employees and a $2,000 raise for the comptroller. The budget comes with a tax rate of $3.30 per $1,000 of assessed property value in the town, which is a 2.86% increase. The rate increase is $1.73 per $1,000 in the Village of Chatham, which is a 6.11% increase.

Town Supervisor Jesse DeGroodt said that the overall increase in the rate is within the state tax cap limit.

Board member Jean Rohde asked for the full amount of the raises to be put back in the budget after the board had lowered them to 1.5% at a budget meeting. She said any increases in budget are the result of increased healthcare costs, which the board can’t control. “I don’t think we should let mandates affect the people that work day-to-day here,” she said.

Ms. Rohde She stressed that the increases would not affect the overall budget much.

Board member Bob Balcom said that the employees have not received salary increases for many years. “For most of them, it’s a 3% [increase] over 5 years,” he said. Mr. Balcom also pointed out that the cost of living has gone up every year, while employee salaries have stayed the same. “Every year they have less and less and less,” he said.

Board member Henry Swartz said he supported the increases because it didn’t increase the overall budget in any major way. He said that the increases would help valuable employees. “If we are not hurting our taxpayers, why would we want to hurt our employees?” he said.

But Mr. Swartz also bought up healthcare costs and the need to change practice of having the town fund the employees’ whole health insurance benefit package. “In the near future, we’re going to have to do something with health insurance,” he said.

Maria Lull voted against adopting the budget because of the raises. “You haven’t taken into consideration what the package is,” she said, referring to the benefits and salaries.

Ms. Lull also questioned why some people were getting raises while others were not. “I’m suggesting that the whole process has not been thought out,” she said.

Supervisor Jesse DeGroodt said that some employees who got raises had asked for it. They are all employees, mostly supervisors and department heads, who are not in the union.

As for the comptroller, the board decided to raise her salary by $2,000 this year, even though the position had been budgeted for a $5,000 increase. Many board members agreed they needed to increase her salary for the amount of work she does but they were not comfortable making a large jump at one time. “We’ll make sure that this comes back up next year,” said Mr. DeGroodt.

Also at the November 20 meeting:

–The target date for completion of construction of the White Mills Bridge is December 8

–The Zoning Implementation Committee’s ridge line mapping was discussed.

The next board meeting is Thursday, December 18 at the town hall.

 

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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