Finance and Warrant Advisory Committee Meeting
January 26, 2009
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, Patti Weagle, Tom Valorie, and Patricia Nedoroscik.
James Smith, Town Administrator, was also in attendance.
On a motion made by Mr. Hall and seconded by Mr. Reid the minutes of the meeting of November 24, 2008 were approved. The vote was 7-0 to approve; Mr. Valorie abstained because he had not attended the 11/24/08 meeting.
Helder Machado arrived immediately after the approval of the minutes.
Request for Transfer of Funds:
Mr. Smith requested that the board approve a transfer of funds from the Finance Committee Reserve Fund to the Veterans Benefits account #01543-57700. Due to the economy and other factors the number of qualified veterans seeking assistance is greater than anticipated and the account is running a shortfall. Veterans Benefits are administered through a state program that is mandatory for cities and towns. Mr. Smith provided a brief overview of these benefits and explained that the amount for each veteran is based on a number of factors including their employment and health situations and the number of dependents they may have.
Neither Mr. Smith nor Mr. Recore had the original transfer request but both thought it in the neighborhood of $ 10,000-$ 12,000.00 at this time. It is possible that another request could come to the Finance Committee to address this account before the end of the fiscal year.
On a motion made by Ms.Valletta and seconded by Mr. Reid, the committee voted unanimously to approve the request.
On a motion made by Ms.Valletta and seconded by Mr. Hall, the committee voted unanimously to grant Chairman Recore the authority to sign the request.
Town Administrator Update:
Town Administrator James Smith provided the committee with information relating to the current and upcoming budgets.
Snow and Ice Removal Budget: To date $ 113,162.98 of the appropriated $ 120,000.00 has been spent during fiscal 2009. The town has filed for reimbursement for costs related to the December ice storm; however most of the costs were fire department related. Mr. Smith explained the increase in the cost of salt and the use of salt vs. sand and also how the public’s expectations of road conditions after a storm had changed over the years. In answer to a question he also stated that the town receives salt at the determined state contract price.
On a motion made by Mr. Hall and seconded by Mr. Reid, the committee voted under Chapter 44 Section 31D to authorize deficit spending for snow and ice removal. The vote was unanimous.
Budget issues: At the MMA meeting session of January 23rd Governor Patrick announced that there would be additional “cuts” to the fiscal year 2009 aid to cities and towns due to the economic downturn and state deficit. While there would be no direct reductions to the Chapter 70 aid there would be reductions of approximately $ 100,000.00 to the Town of Sutton. Mr. Smith has identified areas to reduce including leaving vacant for the year the Highway Department position and not filling the position at the Council on Aging that will be vacant for a half year. Many accounts will also have a spending freeze.
Mr. Smith noted that the long term result of these reductions will be a decrease in the amount of funds that will go into calculating free cash at the end of the fiscal year.
He also expressed concern that 2010 would present a larger problem and is expecting very little new growth and a state aid cut of up to $ 300,000.00.
Mr. Valorie asked the total salary amounts for the town and Mr. Smith estimated them at $ 10,500,000.00 for the school and $ 2,500,000.00 for the town.
Several scenarios for closing a budget gap were discussed; further discussion will take place after Mr. Smith holds a department head meeting and speaks to union representatives.
Other Budget Related Issues: Mr. Smith reported that the Town Energy Committee has been working on cutting the total number of kilowatt hours used. When asked about Wind Power by Mr. Valorie, Mr. Smith noted that there were three potential areas for wind generation—the School property, the Shaw Farm, and the Sewer Treatment Plant area. Studies by a consultant would have to be completed at each location to determine the feasibility of generating enough electricity to make the cost of the wind generation unit feasible.
Mr. Smith also noted that the town had received a state grant of $ 600,000.00 for the cost of constructing an acceleration/deceleration lane along Route 146 by Atlas Box and for running sewer and water to that location.
He also noted that the Board of Selectmen had voted to declare the gravel pit off Hatchery Road of approximately 7 acres as surplus property and to send to the legislature a Home Rule Petition for its sale with a minimum bid of $ 2,000,000.00. Of the $ 2,000,000.00, $ 1,000,000.00 would be placed in a dedicated Stabilization Account to be used to purchase materials that would no longer be available to town departments due to the sale. The other funds could be used for capital purposes that are yet to be determined.
Mr. Smith talked about the proposed Municipal Relief Act that would allow cities and towns to generate revenue from sources including a local option increase in the meals tax (over and above a state 1% increase that would be divided among the cities and towns by a lottery system) and the elimination of the telecom exception allowing that could potentially bring $ 40,000.00 to Sutton.
Economic Stimulus Projects: In response to a request from Lt. Governor Murray, Mr. Smith submitted the following projects for potential funding from President Obama’s Economic Stimulus Plan:
- Running water and sewer to the school system;
- Replacing the Early Learning Center roof and adding solar panels there;
- Running water and sewer from the Atlas Box project to Boston Road along Route 146.
Mr. Smith was congratulated on his work in including those projects as part of the proposal.
Other Updates: Mr. Smith noted that an upcoming Capital Projects plan will include funds for high efficiency boilers for town hall;
He noted that there was funding in the Green Communities Program that the town could eventually try to access;
The painting of the town hall has been turned over to John Couture and Paul Maynard;
An update to the telephone system is being managed by Tim Harrison;
Information has been included in the town census about the implementation of quarterly tax bills; Mr. Smith has included overtime wages for the clerk in the Collector/Treasurer’s Office to assist in processing the quarterly bills;
A savings of $ 13,000.00 will result from paying the retirement account assessment in one payment;
Bids for the Owners Project Manager for the school project will be going out in February.
Upcoming meetings: In response to a request for another Tri-Board meeting from the School Committee Chair, the board agreed that the School Committee should instead attend one of the Finance and Warrant Advisory Committee meetings after February.
In addition to the regularly scheduled meeting of February 23rd, the committee will also meet on February 9th.
On a motion made by Ms. Valletta and seconded by Mr. Hall, the meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.