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Breaking down budgets: select board pay

Towns across The Valley tried to trim budgets wherever possible this year. For voters looking over line items before Town Meeting Day, any allotment of over a few thousand dollars could be called into question—especially if it's to pay for a position many people think of as volunteer.

Select board members are elected by voters to attend bimonthly meetings and make informed decisions about town budgets come tax time. They aren't technically considered town employees, yet included in each town's 2014 budget is a line item for select board members, ranging from $2,500 in Moretown to $7,500 in Warren.

Split between each board's five members, members of the Moretown Select Board receive $500 each year for their time and efforts, while members of the Warren Select Board receive $1,500 each year. For comparison, Fayston budgets $2,250 for its three select board members ($750 each), Waitsfield budgets $3,250 for its five select board members ($650 each) and Duxbury budgets $4,250 for its five select board members with the chair receiving $1,250 and the other four members receiving $750.

In Fayston, the select board salary is approved by voters at Town Meeting via a warned article and, according to select board chair Jared Cadwell, it covers gas, food and other miscellaneous expenses. The cost of conferences and workshops are not reimbursed in the select board salary but are covered under general office expenses.

In Warren, the select board salary was approved in the same manner, sometime before 2008, select board chair Andy Cunningham recalls. It can only be adjusted by town auditors or by voters at Town Meeting, and it is subject to state and federal income tax.

The budget says "salary," but really it's a "simple stipend," Cunningham said of select board pay.

As Moretown Select Board chair Tom Martin explains, no one decides to serve on the select board for the money. It's a big time commitment, and "we get a little stipend at the end of the year... but it probably works out to about 5 cents an hour," he said.

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