Could ‘gift’ funds be better used?

To the editor:

Watching the [Caribou City] Council meeting on April 21, I became concerned regarding a financial proposal submitted by elected officials. Their plan is to give full-time city employees a $500 gift certificate and part-time employees a $250 gift certificate. These are to be used at businesses in Caribou. This windfall has been called a bonus, an economic stimulus, or a thank-you to raise morale.


After talking with council members and the city manager, these are reasons given, with my responses.

— City employees are not receiving a raise this year. (I am sorry to hear this. Having been through years of not receiving raises, I know how hard it is on family budgets. Our city employees work hard and work smart. They deserve it.)

— It will help morale among city employees. (Low morale has not happened because of this global crisis. In all times, especially tough times, employees need to be treated with dignity and respect. Showing employees appreciation and how they are valued is important.) 

— Economic development was another reason. Isn’t this a way to help save businesses I was asked. (This is coming from OUR tax dollars, the property taxes we pay to finance the city. Is it equitable to fund a stimulus package when there those in this city who are laid off? Had hours cut? Salaries decreased? We need to pay mortgages, car payments, purchase food, and pay utilities. Some are taking vacation time or family leave to stay home with children, while teaching with support from RSU39.)

— This is a thank-you for employees who found savings in department budgets. (When told to cut, I was never rewarded for doing my job. It was hard and difficult, we tightened belts, doing more with less. We got creative. It was done because it was our job. There were no monetary rewards. If a windfall happened, it was applied to budgets.)

This is money that citizens of Caribou pay to have services needed in our community. 

Can $40,000 be better utilized: blight, unsafe sidewalks, rainy day fund for emergencies, such as River Road, or more chip-seal on country roads?

Please note, this letter is not against city employees. I have volunteered side by side with too many of them not to respect and thank them for what they do to make this community better. I am grateful for the employees who go above and beyond. Many are behind the scenes doing jobs we don’t see. 

Few people like taxes, but they are a necessary evil. I thank you employees publicly while wondering if this money can be used for the benefit of the city as a whole.

Gail Hagelstein


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