By Max Bowen
In 2015, Town Meeting voted to eliminate $37,200 worth of stipends for the Board of Assessors, School Committee, and other boards in town.
At its meeting on March 9, the Town Council explored the possibility of bringing these back, to a mix of reactions. No vote was taken, but the matter was tabled to a future meeting. With the new form of government, bringing back stipends takes a two-thirds vote from the council.
Councilor John Simmons was strongly opposed to the stipends, saying that the town was still working to fix budget issues that existed prior to the override. He said that serving the town this way takes a great deal of time, but that approving stipends was not appropriate at this time.
“I think it sends a message to the town that I don’t want to send,” he said.
Stipends ranged from $500 for Board of Health members and $650 for the chairman to $2,900 for Board of Assessor members and $3,200 for the chairman. Julie Boyce suggested that the dollar amount could be changed, and that it should be expanded to other boards. Council member Adam Scanlon said that it was a question of principle and that people should be paid for and respected for the work that they do. Should they not want it, Scanlon said they could donate the money back to the town.
“Even when we paid people, they served with distinction,” he said. “If it’s symbolic, it’s symbolic that we’re not providing funding.”
Prior to serving on the council, Michael Lennox was on the Board of Selectmen, and didn’t want the stipend then, that he did it for love of the community. He did think it would be appropriate to offer compensation when serving on a board impacted employment.
“To say we’re going from really tight times to have every single household pay a lot more in their taxes, it doesn’t jive with me personally,” he said. “I will vote passionately against all stipends, minus some things that take away from professional employment.”
Council President Keith Lapointe said it had only been 18 months since the override had passed, and now didn’t feel like the time to be voting on this. He said his service came from a love for North Attleborough and anyone who did that deserved thanks and appreciation, but other matters needed to be attended to first.
“Let’s get the economic engine rolling,” said Lapointe.