Selectmen cut own salaries, revive holiday pay

December 31, 2009 11:52:00 AM

Jason Browne - [email protected]


WEST POINT -- Meeting for the fourth time in December, West Point''s Board of Selectmen made an estimated $70,000 worth of cuts toward resolving a deficit estimated between $600,000-$700,000 Wednesday. 


In a sweeping two-hour meeting that touched on a plethora of topics, the board accomplished cutting its own pay by 40 percent and offering to pay 100 percent of its health care (a $40,000 savings) and raising the sanitation fee another $2 (a $60,000 earnings). But it also reinstated three of five paid holidays eliminated at a Dec. 17 meeting which put an estimated $30,000 back on the books. 


What the board didn''t do was budge on its decision to reinstate 100 percent health care coverage for city employees. The board had voted to cut payments by 50 percent at its Dec. 17 meeting but rescinded the vote at a Dec. 28 special meeting. 


Mayor Scott Ross attempted to veto the board''s decision to reinstate full benefits, but the board immediately voted down the veto. 


Sensing the board''s lack of progress, City Attorney Orlando Richmond asked City Accountant Lisa Klutts to determine how long the city could operate with just the current cuts before running out of money. 


"If we get to March or April and run out of money you''ll have no choice (but to cut benefits or employees)," said Ross. 


Motions were made for several cost-cutting measures but were shot down. Ward 4 Selectman Keith McBrayer moved city employees be required to pay 25 percent of health care costs but was voted down 4-1.  


Then McBrayer moved dental and vision benefits be cut and to institute an across-the-board 10 percent pay reduction, but neither motion received a second. 


The board did make a procedural change. After Ward 1 Selectman Rod Bobo moved to cut the board''s pay and benefits, he requested a roll-call vote, which the board then utilized for the remainder of the meeting. 


Ward 2 Selectman Homer Cannon and Ward 3 Selectman Charles Collins voted against the pay reduction. Each selectman is paid approximately $18,000 each year. The mayor makes $50,000. The reduction will take effect in January and end in July. 


During the course of the meeting the discussion swung randomly between allowing liquor stores to stay open later, drawing funds from water and sewer fees, whether the mayor and city administrator kept the board adequately informed on budget matters, the duties of the city administrator, bringing in outside financial advisors to balance the budget, lieu taxes and who''s at fault for the deficit. Action was taken on none of these items. 


Richmond notified the board they could be held financially liable if the city does not balance its budget in time.