East Lyme — First Selectman Mark Nickerson said he will take a pay cut of $16,000 in 2017-18 as the town faces another year of budgetary cutbacks that have forced department heads to “do more with less.”
“My offer to cut my salary comes at a time when all our town departments are feeling the pressure of tight budget cycles year after year,” he said in a statement. “We have a great town with exceptional services delivered by our town department heads and their staffs. Our departments do so much with very little as compared to similar towns in our area. The rollback of my salary seems like the right thing to do. I will work just as hard, if not harder.”
Nickerson, who currently makes $115,459 as first selectman, said in a phone interview earlier this week that he offered to cut his salary because he wanted to lead by example and support department heads who have experienced cutbacks each year.
“I thought I needed to have skin in the game,” he said. “It was time the first selectman’s budget was also affected.”
He said the tough budgetary times have meant cutting positions in the past. The town also has cut back on benefits and hours and has asked departments “to do more with less.”
The town is “in a wait-and-see moment” in terms of how much state aid it will receive next year, he said, and the proposed pay cut is in anticipation of state cuts that will be ongoing for years.
Nickerson, who is a field representative and owner of two local GEICO offices, said the company encourages its employees to give back to the community and he began volunteering with the town 18 years ago. He said the company has been both, allowing him to serve the town as first selectman and also providing income, so he now has the opportunity to give back part of his town salary to the general fund.
At its April 3 meeting, the Board of Finance had cut the town’s proposed general government budget by $100,000.
To make up for the reduction, Nickerson recommended the cut to his salary, as well as cutting back on supplies from various departments and funding for part-time clerical staff in his office and making an $8,000 cut to the library and $10,000 cut to Parks and Recreation.
He said the town is reallocating an engineer to work 25 percent of his time in the Water and Sewer Department.
The town will save on highway overtime and also will not immediately fill the position of highway supervisor with the retirement of Chuck Holyfield, but instead will let some foremen handle the tasks, he said.
Nickerson said the town was able to get a $5,000 discount on its liability insurance because it has removed all underground storage tanks. About $11,000 will be saved in electricity from the town’s move to LED lights and the renegotiation of the electrical contract, among other reductions.
At its April 3 meeting, the finance board also specifically cut increases proposed for the town’s fire departments; $225,000 from the proposed $46.79 million schools’ budget; and $132,000 from the proposed $923,646 capital budget.
A public hearing on the overall $70.8 million budget, which is 2.29 percent more than this year’s budget, will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at the East Lyme High School auditorium.