Arkwright chops highway chief’s salary, OKs budget

ARKWRIGHT — The Arkwright town budget was approved Monday with few changes. Overall, the real property taxes will go up 21-cents per thousand, from $11.69 to $11.90, and the fire tax will go up 3-cents per thousand, from $1.56 to $1.59. The budget stayed below the 2 percent property tax cap.

The controversial change was for the town highway superintendent position. The pay decreased from $53,770.41 to $30,000, while the position is now including paid health insurance. Town Supervisor Fred Norton stressed that the previous pay, at $53,770.41, was high with the knowledge that the superintendent would pay for insurance himself.

The lower number wasn’t settling for town Councilman Roger Cardot, who did run for the position this past election but lost.

“I am just going to say that I think that the pay is too low for that position with the responsibility that are with that job,” Cardot said.

Norton emphasized that the health insurance factor was included in his pay scale from the beginning, but that there are benefits now with the town paying for the insurance.

“There’s one advantage. Steve (the former superintendent) paid an income tax on $53,000, Jim will pay an income tax on $30 (thousand),” Norton said. “The medical insurance, if we pay for, is not taxable.”

Cardot argued that the job is now, technically, at less than $15 an hour, something that may hinder others from wanting the job in future years.

As the discussion ended, shortly after, everyone voted ‘yes’ for it, except for the town highway superintendent. However, his vote is not a part of the council, thus not counted. There were laughs, which may hinder the seriousness of his ‘no’ vote, but throughout the discussion, Highway Superintendent James “Jim” M. Ziemba had his arms crossed while shaking his head about the pay decrease.

The highway superintendent could opt-out of the insurance, but it has to be done at the annual organizational meeting and the position would receive half of that pay, Norton added at the meeting.

Other factors in the town budget include a 25 percent increase in state retirement for highway personnel, from $16,676 to $20,904, and minute increases and decreases which nullify each other.

The rate went up by around 1.84 percent in the fire levy and the town tax went up 1.8 percent as well.

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