Voters in Halifax to decide board expansion, assistant position
by Jack Deming
Feb 22, 2014 | 9586 views | 0 0 comments | 96 96 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HALIFAX- The town of Halifax is asking its voters to approve the creation of two new positions on the selectboard, as well as an administrative assistant position to help with the workload.

Article 12 of the Town Meeting warning asks voters to create two new, one-year terms on the selectboard. Halifax currently has three members on its selectboard, and chair Edee Edwards said the goal of the article is to start a discussion on how best to run the town. Edwards said having a three-member board makes the job tougher, and less likely to attract candidates. Adding two positions, however, would make the selectboard a more attractive option for those who are interested but are too busy because they own their own business.

“I think it’s a fair question,” said Edwards. “Right now, as much as we enjoy doing this for the community, with three members, it’s difficult to suggest someone could do it without being extremely organized. This job could take over your entire life, and it’s not a good long-term strategy for the town.”

Edwards said there has been a large amount of turnover in town positions since Tropical Storm Irene, and the town wants to make the selectboard a more accessible position to more residents.

The administrative assistant position, proposed by the town, is intended to further facilitate a smoother operation of town government. The town is proposing a part-time position with a salary of $12,000. Edwards says that since Irene, the town’s selectboard members have seen a drastic increase in the amount of day-to-day work and responsibilities they have been tasked with, and an administrative assistant is needed to help ease the burden. “It’s making it a challenge for us to efficiently run the town,” said Edwards. “Our concern these last few years is that our selectboard members have been running unopposed because the amount of work prohibits many residents from running for the position.”

With an administrative assistant and two more selectboard members, Halifax is hoping more people will become more involved in the town’s operations.

Article five asks voters to establish a reserve fund to cover unanticipated shortfalls and to pay nonrecurring and unanticipated general and highway fund expenses. This reserve would be funded with any budget surplus from fiscal year 2014, and would not exceed 5% of the general and highway fund budget. The town put forth the article due to reimbursements still being received as a result of Tropical Storm Irene. The town is expecting to receive $370,000 in fiscal year 2014, and Edwards said that if a significant amount is received toward the end of the year, it could be placed in the fund. “It would be an opportunity for us to have a cushion for unexpected expenses, for when things go wrong, and when equipment breaks down,” said Edwards. “I think a lot of people in town realized how stretched Irene made us.

“I think some people will be concerned, because times are tough and it may not be something they want to try right now. As selectboard members, we believe it’s in the best interest of the town, but we’d like to hear what the voters say, and whether it makes sense to them.”

In other business, voters will be asked to approve highway and selectboard expenditures that total $1,364,275. Of this amount, $1,166,275 will be raised by taxes while $198,000 will come from state grants for the town highways, as well as from two donors who left money to the town. The portion to be raised by taxes shows a 23% increase from last year, due to rising operating expenses of the town; the amount of gravel needed for the town’s dirt roads; and the maintenance of a bridge not damaged by Irene, due for maintenance after three years of deferment.

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