GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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April 9, 2013

Rockport voters back $1.3M budget hike

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a corrected version of this story. The $114,441 amount listed as being the cost of benefits and pension received by some Rockport selectmen is in fact the amount received by the entire office, which includes the Town Administrator and two part-time employees. A story in Monday’s edition incorrectly indicated that the amount was the cost of providing benefits for selectmen only.

ROCKPORT — Some 200 residents Saturday gave their approval to a fiscal 2014 budget carrying a 5.1 percent spending increase, while also backing an allocation of $60,000 to fund a Millbrook Meadow study, blessing a new bylaw that requires fingerprinting of solicitors and others, and approving money for new parking meters that had been tested last fall.

Although the budget passed as proposed — at $25,019,348, up $1.3 million from the current year — there was a discussion on a number of the finer points within the budget during the Annual Town Meeting at Rockport Middle/High School.

Toby Arsenian of Granite Street raised questions about the pensions and health benefits received by the Board of Selectmen, asking those who received health benefits to identify themselves. The costs paid in benefits to the selectmen, the town adminstrator and two-other employees who work in the selectmen’s office total $114,441.

Erin Battistelli, who chairs the Board of Selectmen, and selectman Paul Murphy both said they were very grateful for the benefits they received by serving on the board, Battistelli clarified hers was a family plan.

“If you are gainfully employed, why don’t you get that (insurance and benefits) through your employer?” asked Charmaine Blanchard, a King Street resident.

Her question went unanswered, but town officials said those benefits are eligible only to elected officials who receive a stipend, or have been employed by the town for several years. The benefits also end when the official is no longer serves the town.

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