New Index budget may pinch workers

By LESLIE MORIARTY

Herald Writer

INDEX — One of his first acts as mayor may be to cut city employees’ hours.

That’s what Kem Hunter faces as the Index Town Council begins its 2001 budget process tonight.

The town council will address the budget at a meeting at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. The meeting will also be a public hearing on a proposed 6 percent increase in the town’s property tax levy.

"In a town our size, we have severe budget constraints," Hunter said. "Our population is small and our assessed property value is low.

"So we don’t have a lot of money to work with."

The mayor, who took over two months ago when former mayor Peter Gott resigned, is asking that the council approve cutting hours of the town clerk, the utility clerk, and the Index maintenance worker.

Even with the 6 percent increase in property taxes as allowed by state law, Hunter said cuts have to be made to be able to continue the current level of services.

"We’re also looking at charging for our recycling service which the town now offers residents without a fee," he said.

The monthly curbside recycling pickup would go to $4 after Jan. 1.

The town has about 120 residents and now operates with the town clerk and utility clerk each working about 20 hours a week. That may drop by half, depending on what the council decides tonight.

The town’s longtime maintenance chief recently resigned and Hunter isn’t sure if he’ll be able to afford to fill what was once a full-time job.

Because the council meets to take action only once a month, tonight’s meeting will serve as its public comment time on the proposed 6 percent increase in property taxes.

The entire budget will be up for public comment at the council’s Dec. 2, 7 p.m. meeting, at the Town Hall.

The council will wrestle with another matter tonight as well.

An ordinance that limits the length of time that recreational vehicles, buses and cars can "camp" in town is on the agenda.

Hunter said he is bringing the ordinance to the council after council members aired concerns about lengthy RV stays.

His proposal is to allow a three-day stay for any vehicle that is being used as living quarters and being slept in. The ordinance states that the mayor can grant a 30-day stay after such requests are received at town hall.

It also spells out that longer stays are possible with the town council’s approval.

While Hunter is making those time limits as a suggestion only, he thinks the council will adopt the ordinance.

"We’ll discuss it and I’m open to suggestions," he said. "The council’s been dealing with the problem of people bringing their RVs, cars, and buses to town and just living in them for some time now. They started with a RV ordinance and I’ve just improved the wording of it.

"I know they want to get an ordinance in place that we can enforce and eliminate the problem."

Hunter said Index wants visitors. But the town wants to be able to regulate how long they stay.

"We all agree we need something in place to direct this," Hunter said.

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