Thursday, July 9, 2015

No Laughing Matter

Highest elected officials in town are paid $300 annually

Saying that when she mentions their annual $300 stipend most people laugh, Select Board member Connie Kruger told the Finance Committee this morning the Select Board compensation issue, although awkward for her to talk about because of obvious self-interest, boils down to "respect of the office."

Select Board members are reimbursed for some out-of-pocket expenses, but the issue really is their time. Lots of it.  This past Fiscal Year they met 33 times, with each meeting lasting around three hours.   Not to mention all the prep time preparing for each meeting. 

And the simply fact that their stipend (and that of the Moderator) has not increased since the mid-1970s, so inflation alone calls for quadrupling the current amount.

 Finance Committee this morning.  Chair Kay Moran 2nd from right

Most Finance Committee members were sympathetic to the issue with member Bernie Kubiak agreeing strongly:  "It should be increased considering the importance and amount of time ... I think $300 is a joke”

But newly reelected Chair Kay Moran thought it was a "policy issue" that should first be fleshed out with an exact amount by either the Select Board or a committee they appoint, and then come back to the Finance Committee like any financial article.

Member Steve Braun had to leave early before a vote was taken but told the committee on his way out, "I'm in favor of raising it."

Vice Chair Marylou Theilman made a motion to "Refer the question of compensation/stipend back to the Select Board as a policy issue."  That motion passed unanimously 6-0.

Connie Kruger said she was happy with that, as the Select Board may now feel more comfortable discussing the issue.

In other financial matters the Finance Committee voted unanimously to transfer $251,176 from their "Reserve Fund" to last year's DPW budget to cover cost overruns on "snow and ice removal."

The original $280,000 DPW budget was overrun by almost twice the amount, coming in at $531,000.

Area compensations.  Described as "all over the map."


Anonymous said...

What's the right amount?


Seems to me it's basically volunteering, so it should just stay as it is. No one is forcing you to be on the select board.

Larry Kelley said...

$10,000 sound about right.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the $10,000 number. Even that will probably work out to less than minimum wage.

Even better I would propose paying Town Meeting Members in some fashion to improve the pool of candidates.

Larry Kelley said...

The best way to improve Town Meeting is to get rid of it.

Dr.Ed said...

I believe they wind up getting a hell of a lot more than $10,000 -- they are employees of the Town of Amherst, are they not? That means that each year they get the $300 is a year of eligibility for a state retirement pension, which is calculated on the basis of what you earned in your "three best years" -- the three years in which you earned the most money. Not your average (mean, median, or modal) but your three "best."

That's how Billy Bulger has his truly outrageous pension -- all the years in the state senate at $20K and then a few years with a six figure salary at UMass, he gets 80% of his three best years at UM.

And are they eligible for the GIC health benefits? That's really nice health insurance and the only reason I was with the AHA for as long as I was. And even if you have to pay 25% or 30% of it, there is a lot of real money going to pay the rest.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the town should consider compensating School Committee members more too? Don't they get a small stipend right now as well?

Though obviously no person would serve on the Select Board or School Committee just for the money, it would be nice to provide a little more compensation to reflect the importance of what they do, & how much time it takes.

Didn't Trevor Baptiste just bring up a motion related to this at the Pelham Town Meeting? My recollection was that no action was taken, but maybe I'm misremembering.

Anonymous said...

Larry the population of Amherst is not 37,000. If you remove the students, it's around 6,000

Anonymous said...


Larry Kelley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry Kelley said...

Yes to Mayor. No to population of 6,000.

And just because someone is "college aged" doesn't necessarily make them a college/university student.

Anonymous said...

Amherst census total 2010 population was 37,819. The housing production plan at page 8 states that the "college or graduate school students" were 22,470 in 2010. This makes the year-round non-student population 15,349 (NOT 6,000). And of course a lot of students stick around in the summer too.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Currently the SC gets nothing. They also put in many many hours. Well the ones who do more than go to the regular meetings put in a ton of time. They should be compensated. Northampton pays their SC members.

Anonymous said...

Still...15,349 is a heck of a lot less than 37,000

Anonymous said...

The Select Board should get nothing. Musante should be fired, or thrown in jail (along with the school superintendent). We need to have a Mayor and a City charter. This small village crap has gone on long enough. Amherst could be so much more than it is.

Larry Kelley said...

Putting on my sarcasm font: "Tell me how you really feel."

Anonymous said...

$0 is the right amount: it's a civic duty, not a job.

- A former selectman