MERRIMAC — Light Department Manager Dan Folding and the light commissioners told selectmen last week they want to pay the town less than the $29,696 that voters approved at last month's Annual Town Meeting.

This in-lieu-of-tax payment is intended to offset indirect overhead costs shared with the town and reflect the amount saved if Light Department employees do not take their usual salary increase.

Light commissioners showed selectmen legal documents supporting their claim that payments to the town are not required. Treasurer and Finance Director Carol McLeod said, "We're asking for indirect costs. We're asking you to pay your fair share of overhead costs."

Folding explained that, in spite of money in Light Department bank accounts, the department has $200,000 in accounts receivable. He said, "We're not flush with money to give to the town. People are not paying the bills, and they're using less."

Selectman Rick Pinciaro said, "The town's in tough shape. We need some help here."

Light Commissioner Norman Denault said, "There are lots of things we do around town. We've helped the seniors with mailings. We light the Christmas tree at no cost to the town. Town Hall restoration, we supplied trucks." He said they also spent $8,000 for more efficient street lighting.

At the time of the selectmen's meeting, the Light Department's union had not voted whether to give up their salary increases for the coming year. But Denault said even if the union agrees to forego their annual raises, commissioners will not pay the town the amount equal to what would be saved by not paying the wage increases.

The day after meeting with selectmen, light commissioners decided unanimously to give the town $33,261.77 for an in-lieu-of-tax payment for fiscal year 2010 (which begins July 1, 2009), according to Folding. He said this amount represents $18,261.77 for the cost of street lighting paid by the Light Department, $9,381.13 based on the formula they have used since 1994, and $5,618.87 "as extra cash for this year only."

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