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Clarksburg calls town meeting to fund salaries of employees who helped keep community operating during turmoil

ClarksProgress

Clarksburg Town Administrator Carl McKinney has faced a number of challenges in trying to bolster town staff. 

CLARKSBURG — Town government has been in turmoil over the past year, but several employees have been working overtime to stabilize operations.

In order to pay them, the town will need to take money — $50,000, to be exact — from its stabilization fund, an action that requires approval from residents. The decision whether to move those fund will be up for a vote at a special town meeting 6 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Clarksburg Community Center, 712 West Cross Road.

The authorization is needed because the town’s salary account is nearly empty, according to newly rehired town administrator Carl McKinney.

Any unregistered voters who wish to participate in the town meeting need to register Jan. 31 at town hall.

There are three articles on the warrant, and each one needs a two-thirds vote in favor to pass. The articles would:

• Shift $4,500 from the stabilization fund to the salary account of the accountant position through the end of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.

• Move $23,500 from the stabilization account to the salary account of the treasurer/tax collector position to fund it through the end of the fiscal year

• Move $22,000 from stabilization to the salary account of the town administrator to fund that position through the rest of the fiscal year.

McKinney said the town has had to spend more from those accounts to fund temporary workers who stepped in to keep the town moving after the resignation or retirement of a town administrator, an administrative assistant, the town accountant and the treasurer/tax collector during the past year.

During the transition period, McKinney said, the remaining “dedicated staff put in 10,000 percent. They were the saving grace of this town.”

McKinney was hired last month after the abrupt resignation of former Town Administrator Rebecca Stone late last year. He had served as town administrator from 2014-2019. McKinney is also chairman of the Briggsville Water District, which runs the water system in town.

The main challenge facing Clarksburg now is finding qualified candidates for the remaining openings for an accountant, an administrative assistant and a treasurer/tax collector.

There is a shortage of qualified candidates for professional, appropriately educated municipal employees, McKinney noted, pointing out a problem that has been plaguing municipal governments around the state and the nation.

“We need a training regimen for the next generation,” McKinney said. “The younger generation needs to step up, learn how to run a municipal government.”

The result of that shortage, and the growing need for qualified municipal government employees, has resulted in higher demands for compensation when many smaller Massachusetts towns are running short of employees and funds.

As a result, professional employees are tempted to find a higher paying job in a town that can pay the current rate.

“Most Northern Berkshire communities are not sitting on wads of cash,” McKinney noted.

Select Board Chairwoman Danielle Luchi was the only board member for several months while the town hall positions were vacant. In her status as a volunteer — board members are not compensated — she picked up some of the slack, working with the remaining staff and others to pay the bills and keep the town moving forward.

Closing out finances for last fiscal year of 2021 was not completed by the state required deadline, she noted, but the state has been working with the town to get the task done.

On Wednesday, Luchi said those books would be completed in about two weeks.

Another challenge to funding in Clarksburg is the state’s failure to properly compensate the town for all the state-owned land in Clarksburg, which amounts to 53 percent of town acreage.

Town Hall (copy) (copy) (copy)

Clarksburg has called for a Special Town Meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 9.

McKinney said that 20 years ago, the state paid $28,000 in lieu of taxes. This year it paid $20,000.

“It should be 10 times that. The state is cutting off the income and the lifelines of smaller communities, and it’s patently unfair,” he said.

In the meantime, the town has to do what it can to get through this rough patch.

“We hope the good folks of Clarksburg will understand this is what we’ve got to do to get Clarksburg back on its feet,” McKinney said.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-281-4622.

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