Published DateTo the editor,
It's been a pleasure to represent the firefighters and citizens of the Tilton-Northfield Fire District these past three years. I would appreciate your vote for another three years on March 12th.
As your commissioner I have done my best, working with the other commissioners, to provide a reasonable pay and benefit package for the department while not bankrupting the public. We have an annual 2-1/2 percent pay hike with health care expanded from just a single person to include couples and families with the firefighters contributing just 10 percent, well below the national average. Nationally, municipal workers contribute 13 percent for a single person and 29 percent for family plans. That's why when asked to support hiring another firefighter and putting on an additional shift I voted NO because we just cannot afford it.
Upon closer scrutiny, that budget would have raised the hourly pay of the firefighters by 16.1 percent. I know of no other public sector agency offering that much of a pay raise. Compounding matters, the state backed away from its previous 35 percent contribution to retirement and currently pays nothing. The taxpayers now pay 27.73 percent of the payroll to retirement and by 2015 it is expected to go up to 35 percent; that is unsustainable.
While we cannot control the retirement system we can control our internal costs. With the federal and state government pushing costs down to the local taxpayer, we need to hold the line. A vote for me will go a long way in doing just that.
The other thing that I am proud of is the fact that I represent all the people of the district and not just the selectmen in Tilton, many of whom have stirred the pot throughout this past year, raising a fuss over the chief's residency requirement. I am pleased that the chief lives within the District; it was a requirement that all three commissioners supported during the hiring process and I feel it adds a measure of public safety in doing so. Please vote "no" to the petition warrant article that was sponsored by the Tilton Selectmen attempting to eliminate the requirement for residency. Last year the voters at the Fire District meeting soundly defeated such an attempt by tabling it by a 70 percent margin. Tilton selectmen have enough on their plate than to micromanage the fire department. Thanks for your support.
Pat Clark, Commissioner
Tilton-Northfield Fire & EMS