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Tax Collector: Office Has Low Pay, No Backup

Tax Collector Manny Cambra wants his assistant to have the authority to fill in for him when needed.

Correction: Maggie Lyons is full-time, but part-time as previously reported. We regret the error.

Tax Collector Manny Cambra wants his assistant Maggie Lyons to be made an assistant tax collector, giving her the authority to back him up when he's out of the office.

Lyons is currently assistant to the tax collector, which is more of a clerical title.

"She's a clerk and gets paid a clerk's salary," Cambra told the Town Council at a budget workshop last week. "There's only two of us in there now. She's at one of the lowest pay-grades."

Town Finance Dir. Carl Tomchik told the council it would cost an additional $8,000 to $9,000 in salary to honor Cambra's request, depending upon negotiations with the union.

Lyons handles around 1,000 transactions a day and has received kudos from past first selectmen Andrew Nunn and Thomas Buzi and from current first selectman, Steve Vavrek, according to Cambra.

Cambra also told the Town Council it should consider raising the tax collector's salary, if not for him then for whoever runs for the position and is elected after him. His salary is $55,600.

Cambra says he works over 50 hours some weeks and has achieved a high collection rate for the town, but added he won't keep running for tax collector forever. The salary is low and not likely to attract many qualified candidates, according to Cambra.

"Eventually, I won't run again," he said, "and you can't afford an $800,000 to $1 million hit in that office — and you definitely can't afford a revolving door."

Cara J. Kramer February 25, 2013 at 08:39 PM
The normal amount of staff in the assessor's office is 4 - the assessor, an assistant/junior assessor, and 2 clerical. I think the assistant just recently left for another town so that position is open.
Jim beam February 25, 2013 at 10:16 PM
I'm a bit confused. In the article above, Cambra says, "there's only two of us in there now". The budget info you cite shows, in addition to the tax collector, a salary "other" and a part-time salary. That adds up to three people. What's the story? Combining the assessor's and tax collector's departments is not a good option since effective internal accounting controls dictate separation of these functions. However, efficient management of these departments should allow for more efficient use of automation to reduce staffing requirements. There should be the online capability to file the Personal Property Tax Declaration with the Assessor's office required from businesses each October. The handling of these forms is labor intensive and outmoded. I realize that there are human beings behind these budget figures. There are also human beings paying the tab. A 4.3% budget increase becomes intolerable in light of income stagnation in the rest of the economy.
jim laguardia February 26, 2013 at 12:24 AM
Can't you two just discuss this over dinner? Or the next time you are on duty together?
Steve Kirsch February 26, 2013 at 08:16 AM
Watcher, you will have to ask the First Selectman for a complete list. I can point you to an earlier Patch article here: http://monroe.patch.com/articles/monroe-department-heads-come-and-go I know that the police department has lost a number of people, but I don't have a specific number. I can identify the following from Patch articles: P&R dir Aug 2010; Food Pantry Coord. Oct 2010; DPW Dir Jan 2011; DPW Dir Jan 2013; BOE / Town Tech. Dir June 2012; BOE Finance Dir Aug 2010; Planning Admin. Jan 2013; EDC Dir 2010 (budget cut)
Rt25 February 26, 2013 at 12:23 PM
I see a much bigger problem. 2 employees have complete control of the collection of taxes? One of them is part-time? God, remember Oxford, Ansonia, Shelton, all of those heads of departments had total and complete control of money and all of them were arrested and/or convicted of stealing hundred's of thousands tax payer's money and all of them passed their annual audits. Am I the only one concerned about this organization. One person, the tax collector has total and complete control of all of the money he collects.
Walt February 26, 2013 at 12:52 PM
Jim and Crown et al, I'll ask again as I did in a previous thread, is there ANY municipal employee that you think is worthy of a paycheck? Do you think that because they are municipal employees that you own them? Are they supposed to work for free? If someone works at Sikorsky do you own them because tax dollars are funneled there? The fact that you work 60 or 80 hours a week and are not happy about it is YOUR problem, you should look for another position. We'd all better hope that the union does not commission a job study and look at comparables around the state because then we'll all be paying them more.
Jim beam February 26, 2013 at 01:21 PM
First, Rt25: There are internal controls in place to offer assurance for accurate collection and deposit of tax receipts. That is why the treasurer, assessment, and collection functions are separate. They serve as controls of each other. Additionally, the town undergoes a certified financial audit each year which allows independent professionals to review financial information for propriety. Fraud can occur but with proper controls, the threat is lessened. Walt: I don't contend to "own" these employees. That is an absurd proposition. However, I should be able to express an opinion regarding their remuneration and the degree of efficiencies inherent in town budgets. Municipal budgets appear to be of an "ask and you shall receive" construct. Of course an individual working for the town should be compensated. But at what level? And how often must raises be given? Those are legitimate and necessary questions. There are those who bristle at any dialogue on this topic.
Rt25 February 26, 2013 at 01:45 PM
Jim bean, There were similar controls in place in Oxford, Ansonia and Shelton. And all of those towns had certified financial audits each year too. No one person should be in complete control of tax money, no where should that be allowed! And the fact that this person puts in a lot of overtime has me concerned as well.
Jim beam February 26, 2013 at 01:57 PM
First of all, one person isn't in complete control of money. The treasurer should be reviewing the tax collection records, receipts, bank statements, etc. I'm not sure of all the circumstances in Oxford but it would appear as if effective internal accounting controls were not in place. Reconciliations of financial records by persons other than the tax collector should provide awareness into discrepancies. These reviews should be occurring on a standard basis. Are they not? If you know they're not, please provide this information. Cambra is not putting in a lot of overtime. He makes reference to working 50 hours some weeks. That is not a lot of overtime. Again proper internal controls should be in place to reduce the possibility of fraud. it would appear that the Oxford situation was an indictment of their system. Hopefully, that town has some recourse against the firm auditing town financial records. Additionally, the treasurer's role in letting such malfeasance occur should be examined. People other than the tax collector were not doing their job.
Walt February 26, 2013 at 02:10 PM
The vitriolic comments directed at anyone involved in town government here is disturbing. From what I see and hear regarding compensation as well as the fact that employees leave for better compensation elsewhere tells me that we do not and will not attract the best and brightest to positions here in Monroe. 55K for that position is chump change and we will be hard pressed to find anyone willing to take the responsibility of the position, especially if that person knew they would be berated and despised merely because their salary is drawn from taxpayer monies.
Jim beam February 26, 2013 at 02:23 PM
Where is the vitriol? Is any discussion of this matter offensive? Who is expressing that they despise the tax collector? What has been said is that working 50 hours, some weeks, is not burdensome. What has been expressed is that perhaps the tax collector has outgrown the Monroe job with respect to remuneration. It appears as if the mere raising of questions regarding the municipal budget process and the propensity of crafters of that budget to never consider mill rate decreases or moratoriums, angers a whole group of residents. One is left to wonder if there is some sort of vested interest by the commenters here in their vociferous objection to any criticism of town administration. Perhaps these howls of objection suggest that the right questions are being asked.
jim laguardia February 26, 2013 at 03:02 PM
yes we would all hate to see someone with a vested interest come to speak on the patch.... people who are involved in certain orginizations in town who then come on here saying peoples jobs are cushy or they should leave and are whining bureaucats etc..
Jim beam February 26, 2013 at 03:14 PM
Jim: You never seem to address issues. You always seem to discuss your perceptions of people's identities. Make cogent comments on the matter at hand and people will take you seriously. As it stands, your comments border on the nonsensical. As taxpayers, we have the right and obligation to address municipal budget matters. Budgets are ever increasing. This year's budget calls for a 4.3% increase. It doesn't matter what department it is, cost savings and efficiencies are necessary. Budgets never decrease; they never stay flat. Taxpayers' income does decrease; it does stay flat. For town administrators to believe that they are immune to cost cutting is irresponsible. Jim, I don't care who you are and what you do. Express a cogent point and we'll discuss it. I just have a difficult time deciphering exactly what your point is.
Walt February 26, 2013 at 03:16 PM
Whining bureaucrat, fat pension, pathetic cronyism, arrogance, he should leave, real cushy job, and those comments were only from this thread. Past threads are even worse.
Jim beam February 26, 2013 at 03:18 PM
Walt: Those statements are a mere recitation of fact.
Crown Royal February 26, 2013 at 03:19 PM
Hey Walt, I believe most if not all town employees are worthy of their paychecks. Just because I question their salaries does not mean I do not think they are worthy of earning it. I actually think Manny has been a tremendous Tax Collector for our town and applaud his years of service he has provided. The fact of the matter is, I don't work 60 or 80 hours per week. My company does not allow me to work more than 40.
Crown Royal February 26, 2013 at 03:28 PM
I dont know if you are trying to call out me, Jim Beam, or someone else, but I can assure you I have no ties to any organization involved in any sort of town politics with the exception of parks and rec sports leagues which I participate in. In fact, I think this whole comment section has been quite civil in that we are primarily discussing facts and asking questions. Let's please continue this sort of discourse.
Bill Bittar (Editor) February 26, 2013 at 03:33 PM
Maggie Lyons is already full time. The proposal is to make her assistant tax collector rather than assistant to the tax collector. I previously wrote that she worked part-time, which is incorrect.
Jim beam February 26, 2013 at 04:02 PM
Each of these individual instances of increases are, in isolation, warranted and understandable. A human face on the expended dollars makes the matter even more difficult. However, in total the numbers become unsustainable. That is the problem. The crafters of the budget need to be aggressive and, at times, ruthless in their drafting of the budget. Otherwise, the town budget becomes unsustainable. Supporters of the budget always ask "but where should we cut?" The answer is somewhere. There never appears to be the overall resolve to cut or eliminate. Difficult times call for difficult measures. That is what these administrators are paid to do. Work harder and work smarter. If they can't do it then get out of the way and let others try.
Walt February 26, 2013 at 04:07 PM
I'm only glad I don't work for you! Lol
Jim beam February 26, 2013 at 04:13 PM
Walt: I just spit my coffee out after reading your comment. That was pretty funny. Thanks for the laugh. My wife says the same thing.
Walt February 26, 2013 at 04:31 PM
You mean there IS coffee in that cup? I was thinking something stronger... Jim. Beam.
jim laguardia February 26, 2013 at 04:35 PM
My point is using a fake name allows anyone to say things that might hurt anothers feelings and or standing in the community... and its not fair. If you are going to call people names man up.
Jim beam February 26, 2013 at 04:42 PM
Nope, just coffee. Work to be done, Walt. I eat at my desk, too. Can't get away from the job. Gotta pay the bills.
Jim beam February 26, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Jim: No one is calling another person names. We're discussing public matters, such as the budget. We pay taxes and deserve a voice in how our tax dollars are spent. Public officials should be held to such scrutiny. In a previous thread, the propriety of using pseudonyms on the internet was discussed. I thought it was settled that the topic at hand was what was going to be addressed. I've seen no abuse of this practice. Criticism of those in the public sector is allowable. You've made your feelings known on this matter. Move on. Discuss the issues. Are you incapable of that or must you merely repeat the same note, over and over?
jim laguardia February 26, 2013 at 04:59 PM
"Whining bureaucrat" ??
Jim beam February 26, 2013 at 05:10 PM
If the shoe fits. he was complaining about working 50 hours a week, some weeks. To me that is whining. It's not a slur, it's a fact. Cambra used the 50 hours, some weeks as a justification for increasing the compensation for his office. My response is that, perhaps he needs more 50 hour weeks, not less That's not abusive. Many, many people work more than 50 hours a week, on a regular basis with no additional compensation. They don't cry about it, they just do their jobs. So should Cambra. If he suggested that additional compensation for his office was going to generate additional tax receipts and thus generate more income to the town, well, that makes sense. He was complaining about the number of hours he worked. I deemed that whining. How am I off base or abusive?
Rt25 February 26, 2013 at 06:16 PM
Jim beam, You are not off base or abusive, but rather you are right on! Assistant tax collector??? Give me a break!
Rt25 February 26, 2013 at 06:20 PM
And he has to some weeks work 50 hours...give me a break on that one as well. If the job is too much, retire and collect your pension. Believe me they will be standing in line for the job. How come he didn't ask for additional money to attend some "customer service and proper deportment" seminars. Now, that I would not object to because he and his office NEEDS it, especially HIM!
QWERTY February 27, 2013 at 04:20 AM
Can someone confirm that he will indeed collection a pension upon retirement? I'd gladly take less money now for guaranteed money later. Near impossible to find pensionable jobs these days.

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