By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — The Albion Town Board quickly moved to pass the town’s 2013 budget Tuesday after a public hearing that featured many expressions of dissatisfaction — and a continuation of the multi-year squabbles over compensation for elected officials.
The town’s $2 million spending plan is unchanged from the one that town officials discussed three weeks ago; it’s an $137,000 increase from last year. Tax rates are kept at 2012 levels — a $2.85 townwide property tax rate with an additional $1.45 per $1,000 in assessed property value for areas outside of the village; with the tax levy staying just below $700,000.
The numbers that drew the most attention during a contentious public hearing were the salary figures for Highway and Water Superintendent Jed Standish and Town Clerk Sarah Basinait, who both got big raises over their 2012 compensation.
Standish’s base pay for role as Highway Department chieftain is $52,172, $14,172 more than 2012, when his pay was reduced from $46,170 to $38,000; Basinait will receive $33,900 in 2013 after being paid $20,000 in 2012 and $28,506 in 2011. Standish also receives $18,792 for his heading up of the water department.
Town Supervisor Dennis Stirk and supporters of the budget, which passed by a 3-1 vote, noted frequently that the salary changes were simply reimbursements to levels appropriate for the town’s population and compensation from years previous.
”I don’t think of it as raises,” Stirk said after the meeting. “I think what (past budgets did to salaries) was a personal vendetta.”
That did not sit well with former town supervisor Judy Koehler, who led a group of residents opposing the new salaries and the budget itself, which makes cuts elsewhere — including $10,000 removed from the Albion Main Street Alliance, the organization which administers the downtown improvement grant won by the town in 2011.
”Shame on you,” Koehler said forcefully above grumbles of about a dozen other attendees as the meeting adjourned following the budget vote. “Shame on you.”
Councilman Matt Passarell, who was the lone vote against the budget, said the raises were not commensurate with additional duties, beyond the additional administration of the town’s ninth water district.
”These are raises without work loads increasing beyond the water district,” Passarell said. “We’re not changing their work.”
Councilman Jake Olles, who along with Stirk and Councilman Dan Poprawski voted for the budget, said that voters will be able to say whether the pay is earned when the clerk and highway positions are on the ballot in 2015.
”It’s an elected position, if you don’t do a good job, you lose and you’re unemployed,” Olles said. “If we don’t give good pay we won’t get good people.”
More than a half-dozen residents spoke during the forum. Gary Katsanis said the town could have done more to prevent the salaries from rising — both the base highway and clerk salaries were the ones requested in Standish and Basinait’s budgets.
”People wrote what they wanted and the supervisor complied,” Katsansis said. “Where’s the push back, the responsibility from the board.”
Stirk said Town Accountant Tom Baldwin, who reviewed the budget for the board last month, did make cuts to the budget requests to meet the town’s goal of a stable tax rate.
”Our accountant said it’s a good budget,” Stirk said. “Taxes didn’t go up.”