PALERMO — The shakeup of the town staff that followed the Town Meeting vote to reduce pay and eliminate positions is under way, but will take a few months to settle.

Since the new pay scale and staff structure went into effect July 1, one position has been eliminated, tax collector Kathy Tesseo resigned when selectmen cut her pay by 55 percent and Angela Nelson has come on board as the new town treasurer.

The March vote to reduce town staff pay and eliminate positions came after the Compensation Committee found that other towns pay their staff less than Palermo does, and recommended selectmen cut the budget line.

“They picked towns in Waldo County that were a similar in size and population and found that Palermo was paying more for its office staff than any other town,” Selectman Harry Dean Potter said Tuesday.

Tesseo said she handed in her resignation letter on June 14 and stayed on until July 3 to complete the town’s lien process.

Her salary was reduced from $29,600 to $14,144 and she could no longer afford to work “part-time hours for a full-time obligation,” she said. She averaged 20 hours a week.

She added that the selectmen “allowed the Compensation Committee to take control of the Town Office budget and didn’t stand behind the reliable and experienced staff.”

“They were only looking to cut the budget,” she said.

Potter said new treasurer Nelson has agreed to fill in as tax collector until selectmen can replace Tesseo. He said seven people applied for the position and selectmen are interviewing candidates.

Bureau of Motor Vehicle agent Susan Phelps was laid off because of the budget cuts. He said she was a “gem of a worker” and would be missed.

The only original staffer left is Shelia McCarthy, town clerk and registrar of voters.

She said she stopped getting agent fees in December, a loss in pay of about $2,000, and then on July 1 her annual salary was reduced from $21,900 to $14,144.

At the town meeting, residents also changed the positions of tax collector, treasurer and town clerk from elected to appointed jobs. McCarthy has two years left on her elected term, and after that she could be re-appointed by the board.

Abby Hills, who works at the Montville Town Office, is filling in 10 hours a week as interim motor vehicle agent.

Potter said Nelson also agreed to take on the duties permanently, but the state requires a six-month probationary period for agents. Nelson has only been on the job since March. Once she reaches the six-month mark, she’ll take over the duties from Hills.

The Town Office hours also were increased from 16 to 20 hours a week, but only two people will be working at a time. It will be spaced out so office employees will work 16 hours a week, instead of 20, he said.

Residents at Town Meeting had the choice of two recommendations for 2012 municipal wages, and they chose the lower, which was $18,000 less than 2011 expenditures. The budget line of $112,920 included four office staff positions through the end of June and three positions thereafter.

Potter added that it’s been a long process for the office staff.

When the Compensation Committee was holding its meetings, “Rumors were flying around and people were getting upset. It was a really trying time for the office workers. Some people were not very nice to them.”

 

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