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Voters to discuss 12-month budget

RINDGE — Voters will have their chance to weigh in on a 12-month, $3.7 million operating budget at a public hearing Wednesday night.

In mid-April the town had drafted a $3,772,260 operating budget. But at Select Board meetings since then the selectmen, Budget Advisory Committee and department heads have discussed a proposed $53,366 in 2013 budget reductions.

Possible cuts include nearly half of the Police Department’s part-time wages at $11,000 and reduced funding for wages and benefits for the unfilled planning director position.

At Wednesday night’s Select Board meeting, Police Chief Frank Morrill spoke against the proposed cuts to his part-time budget, saying that the part-time budget is a tool that helps reduce his overtime costs. Even though the department lost a part-time officer midway through 2012, Morrill said it averaged $18,000 in part-time wages.

Morrill agreed to reduce his part-time budget by $1,000 to $20,000 and his overtime budget from $52,000 to $50,000.

While the Select Board agreed to take a second look at the police department’s budget, it did not reach a decision Wednesday night.

The selectmen did, however, agree to push off a June 1 start date for a new planning director to July 1 given that the full-time position remains unfilled.

The Planning Board is undergoing its third search since December to fill the position, which became vacant in mid-January. Former Planning Director Matt Henry resigned from the town in late 2012 citing personal reasons.

Planning Board Vice Chair Kim McCummings told the Select Board on Wednesday that the second search produced some viable candidates, but added that the proposed salary was a point of contention.

According to the job posting on the town’s website, the annual salary range for a planning director is between $45,000 to $49,000.

Since first drafting the proposed 12-month budget in April, Town Administrator Carlotta Lilback Pini said the town received news that its health insurance renewal rates are five percent lower than expected — down from 15 to 10 percent. Due to changes in town employees’ health plan choices, Pini said it’s difficult to calculate how much the smaller renewal rates will benefit the town in 2013.

In March, the town of Rindge said goodbye to Linda Stonehill, its administrative assistant of nearly two years. The Select Board has since reduced the 40 hour per week position to a 32 hour per week position and retitled it Executive Secretary to the Town Administrator and Board of Selectmen.

Pini said by phone Friday that the Select Board voted in a nonpublic session Wednesday night to hire Rindge native Nicole Sesia — who has also served as deputy town clerk — as the executive secretary.

“One of the things that the board found attractive about her application is that she can wear both hats,” Pini said, adding that Sesia will continue to serve as deputy town clerk during the town clerk’s vacations. “It is a valuable thing in a small organization.”

Rindge continues to be without a budget, following voters’ decision in March to rescind a 2012 vote at the polls that would have changed the town’s fiscal year with a one-time 18-month budget. Rindge has since petitioned the Cheshire County Superior Court to hold a Special Town Meeting, in order to implement a 12-month budget that starts Jan. 1 and ends Dec. 31.

Pini said Friday that the town had just received notice of an evidentiary hearing at the Superior Court on June 3 to take up the matter.

“That’s really good news and shows that things are moving along as hoped,” Pini said.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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