Nov 24, 2015

Budget Committee Minutes Nov 24, 2015

Budget Committee: Steve Kelley, Diane Cummings, Dann, Ron Bolt, Evan Nelson, Rudy Gelsi, Muffy Copenhaver, Eddy Moore, Carolyn Murro, and George Kirk
Town: Milt Bratz, Karen Noyes, Andrew Dorsett, Chief Paul Smith
Media: Darin Wipperman, Courier Editor, and Kathy Doriski, LATV

  • The minutes of the 17 November meeting were approved as submitted.
  • George was appointed as a voting member for today’s meeting.
  • The School Board will not be ready to present their budget on 3 December; our first meeting with them, therefore, will be on 10 December.
  • The next meeting with the Town will be on 8 December.
  • When feasible, questions for the Town or School Board should be submitted via Ron.

Town Presentation:
Karen Noyes provided an update on revenues, both YTD and projections for 2016. The projection for PILOT revenues is $65,000 compared to $43,500 in 2015. She noted that the Board of Selectmen approved fee changes at the Transfer Station. The new fee schedule will go into effect in January and is anticipated to increase revenues by about $30K. Karen provided information on municipal fee schedules for Littleton and several other towns. There ensued a discussion about reproduction fees at the PD. Chief Smith explained that these are time consuming activities, in part because of the requirement for redaction. The following motion (Dann/Diane) passed unanimously:
“The Budget Committee recommends that the Board of Selectmen consider raising the price per page for providing copies of police reports to a level commensurate with the cost of production.”
Karen also presented the remainder of the proposed budgets, which included Outside Details, Animal Control, Parking Meters, Ambulance Service, and Grafton County Dispatch. It was noted that parking meter revenue YTD was running short of expectations, and that there has been a large demand for Special Details in 2015. Both of these budget items are revenue neutral. Rudy raised a concern about the appropriateness of the CALEX ambulance service doing fundraising. He added that the previous contract vendor did not do fundraising. Selectman Bratz pointed out that this is a solicitation for voluntary contributions, and that the funds are used to help cover operational and capital investment expenses not met by town appropriations.
Karen then presented draft copies of a new way to display the expenses, revenues and net appropriation associated with the Opera House building and the performance venue. She mentioned that a $2,000 stipend was added to the budget for the purposes of OH management, and that was the same amounts paid to the town’s Health Office and Zoning Officer.
Per our request, the selectmen have been briefed on the Police Department’s proposed budget and there was a consensus of support. There was no vote taken and it was noted by the Board that they were looking at this department without the broader context of the total Town budget. Evan noted that the selectman offered some preliminary thoughts on how to either modify or otherwise accommodate the PD budget.

The Big Picture:
Diane led a discussion about the need to put our budget deliberations into a broader financial picture. She provided copies of a spreadsheet depicting town-wide property valuations for the past 5 years, and posited that we are not currently in a growth period. She also distributed a depiction of the use of Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance Report for the past 7 years (courtesy of Karen Noyes). The Town has regularly used these monies to reduce taxes and fund warrant articles. Effectively we have borrowed from the past to pay for current needs, and the Fund Balance is precariously low and that we must consider this as we ponder the total budget. To make this point, Diane stated that only about $13K was added to the UFB at the end on 2014, but the selectmen used $105K to lower the 2015 tax rate.
Diane went on to point out that a 3% increase in the total budget (operating expenses and warrant articles) would only be around $300K. She asked if Karen would provide information on this total budget figure for the past 5 years. Diane said that in the past it was difficulty for the BC to make recommendations, based either on dollars or percentages, without foreknowledge of which warrant articles would pass at Town Meeting.
Ron expressed a concern about the BC waiting until all school and town information was available as that will not occur until late December or early January. This situation would not allow adequate time for either the school or town to respond to BC recommendations. He suggested that we consider providing the town with ‘provisional’ recommendations as early as feasible. Andrew indicated that the selectmen will hold a work session on the budget next week and that he anticipated the Town would be in position to answer most questions by 8 December. Ron added that he hoped that, when it came time, the BC would make specific recommendations.
Next Meeting: 8 December, 4 PM, Community Center
Ron Bolt, Secretary