AYER -- There appears to be no immediate funding to restore the Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board budgets that were slashed at this year's annual Town Meeting.
Finance Committee Chairman Scott Houde told members last Wednesday that one possibility would be to re-implement the budget-line items at Special Town Meeting.
"We can't use a reserve-fund transfer to cover the expenses because Town Meeting specifically said, 'No, we're going to cut those groups,'" he said.
The committee will try to get something in place for fall Town Meeting, he said, whether it's a budget for services and supplies or money for an administrative assistant, if selectmen feel the need for one.
The decision to cut the budget for both boards -- totaling $37,315 -- came after a few Town Meeting members voiced concerns over their efficiency.
Both budgets mainly consist of the salary of administrator Susan Sullivan, whose contract expires in June.
The Finance Committee heard the latest on the new benefits/payroll-manager position, which has garnered opposition from Treasurer Stephanie Gintner.
The new position would be under the authority of selectmen, essentially replacing the assistant treasurer that is under the supervision of the treasurer.
At their meeting in early May, selectmen voted to authorize the hiring process for the position, but not without some dispute from Gintner. Gintner had argued that the town has voted not to have a Finance Department, which she thought seemed to be in progress.
Although she was told the assistant-treasurer position was old, Gintner insisted on keeping it.
"You know where the treasurer stands on the issue and you know where I stand on the issue, and the Board of Selectmen," Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand told the Finance Committee.
The job has attracted 17 applicants, he said, although the application process is open until Friday.
Pontbriand said the position is not a reclassification but a new position. The reclassification, previously held by Melisa Doig, was rejected by selectmen, who cited some concerns over the pay-grade increase.
That reclassification was looking for a $10,000 increase in salary to $57,000, Pontbriand said.
But the salary recommended by the latest nonunion classification study ranges from $41,467 to $53,097.
Houde asked Pontbriand if Gintner has committed to join the screening committee for the job that selectmen also authorized.
Gintner was made a member along with Finance Committee member John Kilcommins.
"I have not heard from her, so I'm operating on the assumption that she'll be at the meeting at 12:30 on Friday," he said.
The main question now is the funding for the position -- Town-Meeting-approved funding for the assistant-treasurer position, funding that can't be moved until a fall or Special Town Meeting.
Pontbriand said because Doig's resignation was unforeseen, he has proposed a reserve-fund transfer "as a potential bridge" to October, when fall Town Meeting is scheduled.
Pontbriand said what's gotten lost over the last nearly four years of argument is that the position will "transcend" the elected Board of Selectmen and the elected treasurer.
"I think it's gotten very personal and I don't want to get into that, but the need is very clear," he said.
"I think it's a step in the right direction for this position," he said.
Kilcommins said the committee should remain consistent with the position it took on this year's two new positions in the Department of Public Works and the Fire Department, which was to be concerned with finding funding.
Department heads are reviewing the rest of the nonunion compensation study. The Personnel Board, which must submit its recommendations on the study to selectmen, lacked a quorum when Houde resigned.
But he said he would be willing to volunteer for the post again, with the primary goal of getting the study completed.
"Once that is complete, I may step back from it," he said. "However, having been at the initiation of the study itself, I feel I'm in a good position where I can step back into it."
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