While the subject of returning stipends to elected officials may be on the warrant at this fall’s Special Town Meeting, on Tuesday night the School Committee asked not to be a part of that discussion.
In a unanimous vote, the board told Board of Selectman vice chairman Matt Hanson not to include the School Committee if the issue of returning stipends is part of Special Town Meeting this year.
Hanson came to the board to gauge opinion on where the School Committee stood, noting for the record that the stipends had been removed shortly after the global financial crisis four years ago, due in large part to health insurance benefits for the elected officials.
While Hanson said that it would be unlikely any requested return of stipends would include insurance benefits, which could become lifetime benefits if a person served for more than ten years, he said that it was a possibility that the topic of stipends without benefits could arise, with $1,800 going to board members at-large and $2,000 going to chairmen.
School Committee member Nick DiSilvio felt uncomfortable taking a pay raise given recent requests by the School Committee for Chelmsford Public School staff to tighten their belts in recent contract negotiations.
“I don’t think it’s prudent for me to accept any kind of stipend,” he said. “I consider my position here as being a public servant. I’m not here to make a buck, I’m here to serve.”
School Committee member Evelyn Thoren opposed the measure due to her belief that $1,800 would be a marginal incentive for any potential board members given the amount of hours that are required to serve.
“In some other nearby towns, board members will get $27,000 or $35,000,” she said. “When I tell them this, they will look at you like you’re crazy, but that’s not what I got into it for.”
Thoren said she would feel comfortable if the discussion did go to Town Meeting, stating that the board could always refuse the stipend in a motion of their own.
Ultimately, School Committee vice chairman Michael Rigney, who was leading the meeting, agreed with the sentiment of his colleagues.
“It doesn’t look like things are getting better in Chelmsford,” he said. “We’d be remiss to ask for a significant raise.”