Asked yesterday why there were some sharp exchanges at the Manchester Town Council's budget work session Wednesday, Councilman Gerald H. Bollinger said, "We were talking about money."
The proposed budget for fiscal 1994 was introduced during the council meeting before the work session. The council members then set out to try to wrestle it into more final form.
When Town Manager Terry Short presented recommendations for raising town employees' salaries, Councilman John A. Riley said, "I just can't see this kind of pay increase. It's ridiculous."
Mr. Riley turned to Mr. Short and said sharply, "I know you're the one who got the biggest raise" in the package. He added that Mr. Short had known what the salary was when he agreed to take the town manager job.
Mr. Short responded that when he was hired he had told his new employers he would ask them for a raise after he had demonstrated what he could do.
Yesterday, Mr. Riley said he thought some town employees' salaries would need to be raised. But he said this is not a good time for a large tax increase.
At the work session, Mr. Riley accused Mr. Short of "playing a numbers game" by proposing to add landfill charges to residents' utility bills, but not reducing the property tax, which has paid the charges in the past.
He said the proposed landfill charge would be the equivalent of a 20-cent or 21-cent increase in real estate tax rates.
Mr. Bollinger said yesterday, "What they submitted to us was more like a wish list than a budget. Everything that I saw was inflated."
The proposed town budget of $1,551,285 is about 34 percent higher than last year's budget of $1,151,078.
It includes capital spending that has not been included in past budgets, as well as salary increases for town employees.
The draft budget would add a landfill fee of about $15 a quarter to residents' utility bills. In addition, the property tax rate would go up by 6 cents.
Under the draft salary proposal worked out by Mr. Short and Mayor Earl A.J. "Tim" Warehime Jr., employees would get a 3 percent raise and would be eligible for merit increases of up to 2.5 percent.
The town would raise some salaries more, to bring them in line with what employees of nearby towns receive.
The proposal included raises for the clerk-treasurer from $20,800 to $28,000 and for the police chief, from $24,314 to $30,175.
Councilwoman Charlotte Collett supported the proposed raises Wednesday.
"Look how long we've been behind," she said.
Mr. Bollinger shot back: "I don't care what everybody else is paying. Do you think [Police Chief] Don [Myers] is going to go somewhere?"
Yesterday, Mr. Bollinger said he thinks the chief is happy in his job. "I don't think he's out looking," he said.
On Wednesday, Mr. Warehime said town employees' salaries don't have to equal what is paid elsewhere, "but they have to be within reason."
He said to the council, "Let's work something out," and proposed that the town give employees a 3 percent raise. He said the council should give the town manager the authority to bestow merit increases up to another 2 percent of the salary budget.
He said the council will then need to decide what salaries still should be adjusted.
The council scheduled another budget work session for 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Another public hearing on the budget is scheduled for April 28.