RANDOLPH, Maine— Residents this week refused to adopt a budget recommended by selectmen that would have offered two full-time town employees health insurance.
The estimated cost, $20,000, proved to be a huge stumbling block despite pleas for passage by two of the three selectmen.
That was contained in one article among the 43 articles handled by voters Wednesday night at the T.C. Hamlin School during in the annual Town Meeting.
Voters approved spending $8,000 to acquire a used police cruiser and equip it for the town constable. They also agreed to take $32,000 from the town’s revolving loan fund to buy 104 Kinderhook St. for future relocation of the Fire Department and the Public Works Department. The two departments are now in a building in the flood zone.
Voters also changed the date of municipal elections from June to November and allowed officials whose terms expire next June to remain in office until the November 2013 election.
In the late voting, residents exempted “eligible active duty military personnel from vehicle excise tax” and added more restrictions to the use of consumer fireworks than are contained in state law. Several residents said they would work toward getting a complete ban on the use of consumer fireworks.
The 65 voters at the meeting found their ranks swelled by interested parties, including town employees.
Selectman Edward Gorham urged the residents to offer full-time town employees health insurance if they could not get it elsewhere.
Budget Committee member Marge Gilman asked when the health insurance provision was added. “Most of this is new to us,” she said.
Robert Henderson Jr., chairman of the selectmen, said a policy adopted last week indicates the town will offer its full-time employees health isurance.
“I think our town employees deserve health insurance coverage,” Henderson said. “They haven’t had a raise in three or four years.”
Mike Carrie, chairman of the Budget Committee, said the committee had asked selectmen to investigate policies and procedures for health insurance and added that he was surprised the work was done within a week.
Delsa Mock, who favored the lower, Budget Committee recommendations rather than any higher amounts recommended by selectmen, said, “I urge you all to bite the bullet and not allow this. It’s a huge policy change. I don’t like that you put it in in one week and we had no say-so. We cannot afford that $20,000.”
Donald Chicoine also said the town cannot afford to offer it. “We’re in bad times,” he said. “I’m unemployed. I’m proof of that.”
Diana Gorham urged passage.
“We are the smallest town. We don’t have a lot of services. This article covers two workers,” she said. “The decent thing to do is to support the people who support us.”
Shirley Hanley objected to buying a used vehicle for the town constable.
“We only have seven miles of road; we have a constable, the state police, the sheriff’s department and Neighborhood Watch.”
Gilman supported it, calling it “one of the best investments we can make for one year.”
Early in the meeting, voters were told that if the selectmen’s recommended amounts were all accepted, the tax rate would increase about $1 per $1,000 of property valuation, or a total of about $88,000.
If the Budget Committee’s recommendations were accepted, local property taxes would increase about $44,000.
(c)2012 Kennebec Journal (Augusta, Maine)
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