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November 18. 2013 8:23PM

Bedford council passes on increasing its stipend

BEDFORD — The Town Council is keeping an eye on taxpayers’ money, even to the point of not bringing a proposed stipend increase to voters next year.

The council discussed the issue at its mini-retreat in September, but revisited the matter briefly during its Nov. 13 meeting. A motion to form a committee to craft the wording for the ballot was presented, but was quickly shot down by a 7-0 vote.

“The timing may not be appropriate with the $30 million road bond and the fire station” going before voters in March, said Councilor Mac McMahan.

Kelleigh Domaingue also had reservations because of a committee’s review of the Town Charter, and the other councilors agreed.

“It’s like giving the committee a conclusion,” she said. “I’m not serving for the money, that’s for sure.”

For their service to the town, each councilor is paid a stipend of $1,500 a year, and the chairman receives $2,000, according to the Town Charter.

Councilor Jim Scanlon said members have not received a stipend increase since 1984, when President Ronald Reagan was in office.

“The purchasing power in 1984 to be equalized today would have to be in the amount of $3,381,” he said.

The councilors’ time varies, depending on the councilor’s board responsibilities and work habits, said Chairman Chris Bandazian. “A councilor probably has to be physically present to attend a meeting/discussion/workshop an average at least one day a week. At the chair/vice chair end of the range, it may be two-plus days a week when there is something to attend. There can be things that need to be responded to any day of the week, any time.”

On average, the time a councilor spends per week is about 5 to 10 hours for some councilors and 20-plus for others, Bandazian said.

In addition to attending council meetings on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month, councilors are appointed to serve on the town’s boards and commissions.

Councilors’ assignments

Bandazian, who has been serving on the council since 2008, is a liaison to the Energy Commission, BCTV Board and the school board. He also is a council alternate on the Planning Board and the Merrimack Regional Water District.

Vice Chairman Bill Jean, a councilor since 2012, is liaison to the Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Water and Sewer Advisory Committee, and he is the council alternate on the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Energy Commission.

Bill Dermody, a councilor since 2008, is liaison to the Planning Board and the Highway Safety Committee and serves as council alternate on the Bedford Village Common Development Committee.

Normand Longval, a councilor since 2006, serves as liaison to the Parks and Recreation Committee and council alternate on the BCTV Board and the Historic District Commission.

McMahan, a councilor since 2012, is liaison to the Historic District Commission and Bedford Village Common Development Committee and a council alternate on the Conservation Commission.

Domaingue, who was elected in March, serves as the council alternate on the Zoning Board of Adjustment, Highway Safety Committee and the Water and Sewer Advisory Committee.

Scanlon, a councilor since 2010, is liaison to the Conservation Commission and the Merrimack Valley Water District and is the council’s alternate representative on the school board.

Under the charter, councilors only receive reimbursement for mileage and expenses for out-of-town business, which is rare. The town pays for councilors and board members to attend seminars and conferences within their areas of responsibility.

Goffstown, New Boston stipends

In contrast, some surrounding towns, such as Goffstown and New Boston, pay their board of selectmen a stipend more or slightly equal to Bedford.

Each Goffstown selectmen receives a stipend of $395.33 per month, which is about $4,743 per year. No extra stipend is given to the chairman. Sue Desruisseaux, town administrator, said selectmen’s pay is reviewed annually during the town’s budget process. Beginning in July 2014, the proposed stipend will increase to $403.24 a month. Goffstown selectmen meet every Monday during the year.

“Travel expenses went away a few years ago,” Desruisseaux said.

New Boston selectmen meet every other Monday. Peter Flynn, New Boston town administrator, said each selectman receives an annual stipend of $2,200, and the chairman is paid $2,500. However, he said, the town has not granted any increases since 2009. The board is paid for attending conferences.

“There’s no out-of-pocket expenses, unless they went to a conference. Then the town will pick up the tab, but only for official town business,” Flynn said.

Initiative petition

Bedford voters have the right to submit an initiative petition to increase the Town Council’s pay. A petition must be signed by at least 50 registered voters and submitted to the council. The town clerk must verify the signatures, and the council has the right to accept or reject the petition, but has to hold a public hearing on the issue.

For more information about the Town Charter, visit the Town Council’s page at www.bedfordnh.org.

sclark@newstote.com


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