Chichester residents debate reducing town worker salaries, cemetery ownership in town meeting

  • Chichester residents vote at the annual town meeting on Saturday at Chichester Central School. ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/18/2023 7:07:19 PM

In the gymnasium at Chichester Central School on Saturday, one of the 18 warrant articles at Town Meeting was not like the others.

Immediately after reading through the operating budget, one resident proposed an amendment to the overall pay increase of 8% for executive salaries, suggesting there should be a $30,000 reduction from the $154,569 budgeted for the 2023 fiscal year.

The proposal prompted nearly an hour of debate.

“The main asset this town has is the employees that work here,” said Selectman Ed Millette, making the case against cutting that portion of the budget. “We have committed, dedicated staff in this town, and we are most fortunate.”

Selectman Chair Richard Bouchard tried to explain why paying town employees well is vital to maximizing their contributions to the community.

“I do the same thing with my employees,” he said.

“I pay them a little extra. I have to end up giving them bonuses, but it’s important because the return that I get for that out of these employees, they’re dedicated, and they put the effort in to take care of my business.”

When brought up to a vote, only six of the approximately 75 people in attendance supported the amendment.

The rest of the warrant articles passed with relatively minimal opposition, except for the one calling for the town to take ownership and maintenance responsibilities for Hook Cemetery on Dover Road. The estimated tax impact was listed as $0.00, but several residents argued it could not be possible for the town to take ownership of the cemetery without the taxpayers needing to contribute in some way.

Bouchard noted that the Cemetery Trustees said at an earlier meeting that there would be a taxpayer cost, but they did not have exact figures.

“I’d like to know what the cost is going to be before we add costs to the backs of the taxpayers,” said Cyril Aures, a state representative.

Only four residents voted to pass the warrant article.

Notably, the town voted in favor of establishing a Fire Rescue Apparatus and Equipment Capital Reserve Fund “for the purpose of refurbishment or replacement of fire apparatus,” raising and allocating $75,000.

They also voted to raise and appropriate $384,000 for a new ambulance and $322,000 for the purchase of a new forestry vehicle for the fire and rescue department; $256,490 to replace the highway department loader with a “2023 Loader with a three-yard bucket, to also include a 4-in-1 bucket, set of forks, sweeper, and extended service plan”; $49,000 to rebuild and pave the lower section of the Chichester Town Hall parking lot; and $49,500 “to replace the generator and wiring for the new generator at the Highway Department.”


ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL is a sports reporter for the Monitor. He graduated from Northwestern University in June 2022 with a degree in journalism and spent his last two years as sports director for the campus radio station, WNUR, leading coverage for nine different sports. A New York native, he's a diehard Yankees and Giants fan much to the displeasure of most of the newsroom.

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