Norwich Board OKs Budget

Norwich — The Selectboard knocked down proposed salary increases for three department heads, but the planning, finance and recreation directors will still receive pay increases of 13, 18 and 26 percent, respectively.

Town Manager Neil Fulton’s proposed budget included large salary increases for several department heads based on a compensation analysis that was done by Condrey & Associates, which was hired by the town for $15,000 to evaluate salaries among non-union employees.

The increases that were initially proposed were called into question by Selectboard and community members who questioned the validity of the analysis. Initially, the planning, finance and recreation directors were recommended to receive 18, 23 and 31 percent increases, respectively.

“I don’t think the methodology of the study was accurate, and I think the increases are flawed,” Selectman Keith Moran said. “I still don’t see the rationalization of bringing these people into this level of compensation.”

The Selectboard voted 3-2 last night to present a proposed budget of just under $4 million at Town Meeting, roughly flat with the current year. Moran and Selectwoman Linda Cook were the two dissenting votes. Cook said she voted against the budget because of the salary increases.

Fulton said he’d have an estimated tax rate calculated available today, but he said last night that he predicts the tax rate increase will be 4 percent or less, which was the Selectboard’s target.

Last week, the Selectboard hoped to finalize the budget, but held off after it saw that the budget — without other spending articles — would lead to an 11 percent increase in the tax rate.

The budget that Fulton initially proposed was $4 million — less than a 1 percent increase. But during budget meetings in December, the Selectboard added $87,537 to the budget, which contributed to the higher tax rate. Increases included $27,619 for additional assistant town clerk hours, $21,000 for records preservation and $9,475 to the town clerk’s salary, among other items.

Last week, the Selectboard asked Fulton to come up with $50,000 in additional budget cuts, and last night he brought the board $48,000 worth of cuts.

The board spent an hour and a half going through the budget line by line, discussing Fulton’s changes and recommending some of their own.

The planning, finance and recreation directors each saw a their salary increases lowered to $57,422 from $59,704. Other non-union employees still received the recommended increases.

Among the cuts were $5,000 for Class 3 road winter maintenance, $15,000 for designated funds for sidewalks, $2,000 for a designated fund for the police station, $7,500 for a designated fund for police cruisers, as well as money for records restoration.

The Selectboard accepted Fulton’s recommended changes. Selectman Moran suggested an additional $47,000 in cuts for the public works department, but the Selectboard voted that recommendation down.

However, there were some increases made to the budget. At last week’s Selectboard meeting, Fulton called his 2.4 salary increase “unacceptable,” and said he was looking for an additional $614 a year to put him on the step and grade scale that Condrey & Associates recommended.

The recommended budget includes the additional $614, and Fulton’s salary will be $97,894.

The Selectboard also agreed in December to increase the assistant town clerk’s hours from 20 to 40, but the board decided to present that to voters as a separate warning article on the Town Meeting ballot.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

CORRECTION

This article has been amended to correct an earlier error. The Norwich Selectboard cut $15,000 from designated funds for sidewalks at Wednesday’s Selectboard meeting. An earlier version of this article listed an incorrect amount.