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Letter to the editor: Middlebury board members deserve stipend increase

An article to increase the stipend paid to the Middlebury Town selectboard members to cover the costs they incur while serving the town will appear on the ballot on Town Meeting Day. This proposed increase would be the first since the current stipend for selectboard members was adopted 22 years ago.
Since 1995, the work required to govern the town has grown in complexity, time commitment and expense. For example, today’s selectboard communicates digitally and all members are expected to have an iPad or laptop computer rather than a stack of paper documents in order to prepare for their meetings. Add to this the fact that a number of selectboard members have day jobs, or run businesses, and it is likely that at some point during the year their selectboard duties may prevent them from working, negatively impacting their yearly income.
Members of the selectboard are also expected to attend bi-monthly selectboard meetings, and committee meetings, sometimes more than one and sometimes all within the same week, as well as attend public meetings on town issues, or visit over a cup of coffee with their constituents, in order to be able to make informed decisions on behalf of the citizenry.
A person living on the outskirts of the town center, six miles away will spend almost $1,000 a year just in travel expenses (at the current 53.5 cents per mile IRS reimbursement rate) in order to attend an average of three meetings a week. None of these expenses are generally reimbursed by the town.
It can be reasonably argued that the current stipend of $1,500 per selectperson, and $2,200 for the Chair, no longer covers the costs incurred by a person serving the town as a selectboard member. While I applaud those who step up and serve the town in this capacity, it seems unfair and smacks of disrespect that I should vote for a person to take on such demanding responsibilities on my behalf as a resident of Middlebury, and have to pay for the privilege out of their own pockets.
This proposal represents an increase of just under a 3 percent cost of living adjustment in the current stipend over the last 22 years. According to Middlebury Town Treasurer Jackie Sullivan, this would add about .0012 cents per $100 of assessed value to the tax rate. That means an increase of around $1.20 on a $100,000 property. This seems to me to be a small price to pay to endow our selectboard with a small level of dignity and respect. Please consider joining me in voting YES for article 6 on Town Meeting day.
Ross Conrad
Middlebury

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