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Canton town board agrees to hike highway superintendent’s salary

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CANTON — The Canton Town Council has agreed to increase the town highway superintendent’s annual salary from $30,000 to $42,500, a decision that may attract candidates to run against longtime incumbent Terry L. Billings.

On Monday evening, the board voted 4-1 for the raise, effective Jan. 1 when the 2014 budget takes effect.

The motion was made by Town Councilman Paul F. Backus. Joining him in voting yes were Town Supervisor David T. Button and councilmen Daniel G. Fay and Jesse C. Coburn. Voting against it was Councilman James T. Smith.

Mr. Billings, 62, has been collecting his state retirement pay plus $30,000 annual salary from the town since April 2009.

The town agreed to lower the superintendent’s salary from $50,946 to $30,000 after Mr. Billings was re-elected four years ago to allow him to collect his state retirement benefits.

Those collecting state retirement benefits who continue working in a publicly funded government job cannot earn more than $30,000 a year, according to state regulations.

Mr. Billings announced in May that he was seeking another four-year term.

Town Councilman Paul T. Backus said keeping the salary at $30,000 for the full-time job would discourage potential candidates from running.

“I felt it gave our present highway superintendent an unfair advantage,” Mr. Backus said. “It limits the field on who will run.”

Many of the town’s highway workers who work for Mr. Billings earn more than $30,000, with some making more than $42,500, he said.

Mr. Backus, a Democrat, said his motion to increase the salary wasn’t politically motivated. Mr. Billings is a Republican and has held the head highway job for the past 19 years.

“I have always believed in the democratic process,” Mr. Backus said. “I thought this was necessary to make it fair.”

In reaction to the vote, Mr. Billings said he did not believe it was politically motivated.

Mr. Smith said he voted against the motion because he thought the board should have made it several months ago rather than just three months before the November election.

“If we were going to do this, it should have been done in May,” he said.

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