Published DateGILFORD — Selectmen voted unanimously last night to place a warrant article before voters this year that, if passed, would split the position of Town Clerk-Tax Collector into two separate positions.
Although there was no discussion before the vote was taken, when asked by resident Mark Corry why the board was taking the action, if it would save the town any money, and how it would work, Selectman Kevin Hayes said the town needs flexibility to appoint two part-timers in the future, if there should be some emergency down the road.
Hayes said it is the board's intent to offer the appointment of tax collector to whoever is elected as town clerk.
"It might not save the town any money," Hayes said.
Waiting until all the discussion had ended, current Town Clerk-Tax Collector Denise Gonyer said that if there was an emergency involving her, state law provides that the Deputy Town Clerk–Tax Collector would automatically take over the position.
She and Town Administrator Scott Dunn also reminded selectmen that by law, and even if the voters were to agree to splitting the position, the Town Clerk is elected and selectmen have no authority over appointing a replacement.
Gonyer also said that her research showed that, contrary to the wording of the warrant article, the trend in New Hampshire has been to combine the two positions for efficiency. She said if Gilford were to split the position, it would be the first town in New Hampshire to do so.
She said the voters chose to combine the positions in the late 1970s.
When asked after the meeting if she thought the warrant article from the selectmen was personal, she said, "I don't know, but it sure feels like it is."
In preparation for the 2012 budget, selectmen asked each department head to identify where in their departments they could save money. Gonyer said her department could reduce one full-time position to a part-time position.
In February, 2012, the Budget Committee supported keeping the half-time position in the Town Clerk-Tax Collector's office and dropping a half of a position from the Land Use Office, while selectmen supported keeping three full-time employees in Land Use or splitting a position between the two offices.
At the time, Gonyer said she didn't support splitting the position because there was a big wage difference – the Land Use secretary earns about $18 per hour and the position in the Town Clerk-Tax Collector's office earns about $12 to $13 per hour. She said it wouldn't be a good use of town dollars.
At the 2012 Deliberative Session, Gonyer made a motion to restore $12,500 to the budget for the position in the Town Clerk-Tax Collector office. The motion passed and the money was added into the budget.
In March, the person working part-time left for a full-time job and selectmen decided not fill the position, choosing instead to enlist Municipal Resources, Inc. (MRI) to study whether the department was properly staffed.
Late last year, MRI reported that the Town Clerk-Tax Collector's office was understaffed and selectmen voted to hire a part-time position.
Gonyer said last night that splitting the position would erase the efficiencies that her office had provided the taxpayers of Gilford. As an example, she said the town just went to allowing taxpayers to pay their motor vehicle registrations with one check – if the offices were to be split it would return to two separate transactions.
She said splitting the position would not be in the best interests of the taxpayers.