Plainfield Town Meeting debates salary equity

For the Gazette
Sunday, May 07, 2017

PLAINFIELD — Voters on Saturday approved a $2,017,310 budget for FY2018 at the annual Town Meeting.

The budget includes $839,270 for education, of which $738,495 is designated for the Mohawk Regional School District and $100,000 for vocational education.

Salary equity became a sticking point at the meeting, which lasted almost three hours.

After almost an hour of back-and-forth discussion, and varied attempts at amendments that left many in attendance confused and frustrated, voters eventually approved raising the salaries for employees in three departments that had requested a 3 percent increase in salary, over the Finance Committee’s recommendation of a 1.5 percent increase for all town employees.

Supporting the Finance Committee’s recommendations, Chairman Lewis Robbins said the panel was looking for an equitable and consistent increase for all town employees.

Merton Taylor Jr., supervisor of the Highway Department, lobbied for the 3 percent increase for himself and his four employees.

The other departments that had request a 3 percent salary increase on the meeting warrant were the Board of Assessors and the town clerk.

While voters seemed to be in favor of giving all of the town employees an across-the-board 3 percent raise, this could not be done at the annual Town Meeting because the other departments had not requested those salaries on the warrant and therefore they could not be voted on.

Moderator Laurie Israel said a special Town Meeting could be held soon, to readdress the issue of equity in salary increases.

Voters also unanimously authorized the Select Board to negotiate and enter into standard tax agreements or agreements for payments-in-lieu-of-taxes for both real and personal property associated with the installment of solar photovoltaic facilities.

In another unanimous vote, residents approved amendments to the Mohawk Trail regional agreement, accepting the town of Rowe as an additional member of the district.

In other business, voters unanimously approved transferring various amounts of monies from free cash to pay for items including a new furnace for the Highway Garage, $5,000 to upgrade Town Office technology, and $5,000 to purchase/outfit a vehicle for the town’s animal control officer.

The town also passed by an overwhelming majority the following four non-binding resolutions:

a resolution for a federal and state carbon fee and dividend, which is a market- based solution to carbon pollution in which a fee is levied on carbon-based fuels;

an endorsement for the protection of pollinators and the enhancement of pollinator habitat, which supports minimizing the use of pesticides and encourages the planting of more pollinator supporting forage;

a resolution in support of the American Anti-Corruption Act, which would make it illegal to purchase political influence through bribing special interests with jobs or political influence, require fiscal transparency in political campaign fundraising and donations and try to put an end to the gerrymandering of political districts;

a resolution for support of House Bill #1026 and Senate Bill #619 titled “Improved Medicare for All,” which aims to increase the number of people who have access to quality health care through a single-payer system.