WEST NEWBURY — Selectmen unanimously turned down a $1,500 stipend allocated to them by voters at the annual Town Meeting last month. Instead of the proposed $500 each, the three-member board will continue its recent practice of receiving an annual stipend of $1 each.
Joe Anderson, the newest member on the board, said he viewed himself as a volunteer. “I’m not taking any pay,” he said.
Chairman Bert Knowles, Jr. said he has also declined to take a stipend for the past several years, while colleague Glenn Kemper pointed out that when the motion to increase stipends was made at Town Meeting this spring “we all voted against it.”
Although Town Meeting appropriates the amount needed to fund operations, it’s the Board of Selectmen who ultimately set the wage levels.
Each of the three members of the Board of Assessors will also receive a $1 stipend and Town Moderator Kathleen “KC” Swallow will continue to receive a $200 stipend, or $100 per Town Meeting. The Board of Registrars receives a $500 stipend annually and the Town Clerk gets a statutory stipend of $150 for his ex officio status on that board.
Finance Director Warren Sproul had proposed to increase the stipend for the Board of Assessors, arguing that the members must take courses to maintain the necessary certifications. But the selectmen and the Finance Committee chose to instead reimburse members for any costs incurred related to serving the town, and so, a $1,500 was budgeted for expenses instead.
Elected officials who are compensated are eligible to access the town’s health insurance plan as well. According to an opinion issued by Town Counsel Michael McCarron in March 2012, “There is no minimum compensation required for participation. Non elected employees must work a minimum of 20 hours per week, but this does not apply to elected officials.”
State statute requires the town to pay 50 percent of the cost for employee group health insurance. Varying contribution rates for different employees are not allowed.