Finance and Warrant Advisory Committee Meeting
August 4, 2008
Chairman Bob Recore called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. Also in attendance were vice-chair David Hall, William Connor, Amy Valletta, Douglas Reid, and Patricia Nedoroscik.
Others in attendance were James Smith, Town Administrator, and Tim Harrison, Town Accountant.
On a motion made by David Hall and seconded by Douglas Reid the minutes of the meeting of June 9th were approved. Ms. Valletta and Ms. Nedoroscik abstained.
On a motion made by David Hall and seconded by Douglas Reid the minutes of the meeting of June 23rd were approved. The vote was 5-0 with Ms. Valletta abstaining.
Review of How Bills Are Paid:
Town Administrator James Smith provided a printout of the method of bill payment per the request of the committee (included with these minutes). That review included the statistics of the methods of payment used, for example the percentage of taxpayers who “walk in”, who mail in, and those who pay by credit card through the website. Using methods other than the “walk-in” type of payment provide for a quicker turnover of the funds and minimize the use of town hall staff. To optimize other methods of payment the town will:
- encourage and publicize the availability of the outside drop off box;
- encourage the use of the lockbox;
- market the availability of making payments on line.
End of Year Transfers:
Town Administrator James Smith explained the “End of Year Transfers” request that was presented for ratification (included with these minutes). The transfers to Central Purchasing are primarily due to a deficit in the gasoline account.
On a motion made by Douglas Reid and seconded by William Connor the committee voted to ratify the vote taken by the Sutton Board of Selectmen to approve the end of year transfer request. The vote was 6/0.
The Town Administrator and Town Accountant provided an overview of the process of quarterly tax billing and the benefits that it would provide to the community. Mr. Smith explained that if the proposal met with approval, a warrant article would be prepared for the fall town meeting with a scheduled implementation date of 07/01/09. He also explained that changing to quarterly billing would cause an addition to the work load in both the Collector’s and Assessors’ offices and that he would look for ways to assist with that additional work, including staff sharing.
With quarterly billing, the first two tax bills would be “preliminary” and the final two “actual” bills based on the budget passed by town meeting. This process would require notification to banks and lending institutions (the town would handle notification) and education for taxpayers.
At this time the first substantial revenue flow into the town in a fiscal year is through state aid. Property tax revenue is not generated until several months into the fiscal year and this often poses a problem with debt and vendor payments. In addition the ability to make payment in full in some areas could provide a cost savings (County Retirement was mentioned as an example).
Ms. Valletta asked if an internship for a college student to assist staff had been considered. She also expressed concern about the senior population and the methods that would be used to “get the word out” so that no-one would be penalized if their tax payments were late.
Mr. Connor thought that the benefits to the town outweighed the negative but recognized that there would be problems that the changes would cause to the staff and some of the town’s taxpayers. He stated that he would not be opposed to hiring part time staff and that he, along with many others, would need a reminder of the additional bills.
Mr. Recore thought that it was a beneficial program but that lots of education and information would be needed.
Mr. Harrison expressed his belief that changing to quarterly tax billing was a move that the town had to make. He explained that in the past the town had larger free cash amounts certified, that the town had advance SBAB payments in reserve, and that the town had
$ 1,000,000.00 in funds scheduled to be paid to Millbury for sewer purposes in the bank collecting interest and that all of that is coming to an end. He also explained that it is often difficult to prepare the documents for approval of the tax rate for semi-annual billing in a timely manner and that if the tax bills are late the town must incur interest payments from borrowing.
There was general support from the committee for quarterly billing; Mr. Smith was scheduled to make a presentation to the Board of Selectmen the following evening.
Mr. Smith provided an update on the fall town meeting. Other than perhaps quarterly billing he does not anticipate any controversial articles. Nor does he anticipate financial articles coming in other than unpaid bills. He expects to have the warrant completed in early September and stated that there will be between 15 and 20 Planning Board articles on the warrant.
The Finance and Warrant Advisory Committee opted to try to meet on the 4th Monday of each month.
The following meeting dates were scheduled:
September 22nd Public hearing for town meeting (warrant will be provided to members prior to meeting) at 7:00 p.m.
September 29th if necessary at 7:00 p.m.
October 20th town meeting
October 27th meeting at 7:00 p.m.
November 24th meeting at 7:00 p.m.
December 22nd meeting at 7:00 p.m.
On a motion made by David Hall and seconded by Amy Valletta the meeting was adjourned at 8:35 p.m.