Nov 10, 2015

Budget Committee Minutes Nov 10, 2015

Budget Committee: Steve Kelley, Diane Cummings, Dann, Ron Bolt, Evan Nelson, Rudy Gelsi, Mike Stevens, Eddy Moore, Carolyn Murro, and George Kirk
Town: Milt Bratz, Karen Noyes, Andrew Dorsett
Public Library: Director Jeanne Dickerman and Trustee Bill Freeland
Opera House Commission: Dan Stearns, Richard Alberini
Chamber of Commerce: Greg Allaire (Pres.), Carrie Gendreau (VP), and Dick Hamilton
Mt. Washington Airport: Andy Nadeau, Jim Mason, Ed Stevens, and Rick Yarnold
Others: Don Merrill
Media: Darin Wipperman, Courier Editor, and Kathy Doriski, LATV

  • The minutes of the 3 November meeting were approved as submitted.
  • The revised Mission Statement was approved unanimously.
  • George Kirk was appointed as a voting member for today’s meeting.
  • Due to time constraints, budget presentations for the Police Department and Parks Commissioners had to be postponed.
  • Additional meetings were scheduled for 17 and 24 November.

After a series of budget reductions dating back to 2008, the library was forced to reduce staff and operations in 2011. The Board of Trustees, in reaction to feedback from patrons, established increasing operating hours as the #1 goal for 2016. Accordingly, the 2016 budget proposal contains funding that would change the existing staff from three full-time and two part-time employees to four full-time and one part-time employee. This staffing change accounts for most of the increases in the library’s proposed budget.
Jeanne Dickerman reported that most of the sewer and restroom repairs approved at the 2015 Town Meeting have been accomplished. She then provided some clarity on the unique nature of the library budget that includes various forms of revenue including memorial funds, trust funds, and special events. A question about the cost and method of selection for new books proved to be a case in point for a discussion about how staff shortages effect the operation of essential library functions.

Opera House Commission:
Richard Alberini stated that the Commission has been working hard to make the Performance Venue more user-friendly and safe. Under consideration for Phase II repairs are such items as a stage door, dressing room with running water and sink, a drinking fountain, footlight safety, a black curtain and travelers. Also, the existing stage lighting is privately owned and this situation should be addressed. Richard and Dan Stearns explained that they are seeking funding from a variety of outside sources to pay for these repairs and not ask for tax payer money.
Nevertheless, the Commission is projecting a possible warrant article of around $10K to address some critical code compliance issues related to the stage rigging. The Fire Chief is willing to work with the Commission but the work needs to be done professionally, with certification and documentation. Dampness in the basement, which is causing the formation of mold, remains an issue. An estimate of ~$115Kto fix the problem is financially impossible within existing means. The Commissioners were asked to take a second look at the trend in fuel and electricity consumption with an eye towards increasing the proposed budget.
Several committee members expressed frustration about the manner in which the budget information for the Opera House is presented. Ron volunteered to work with the Town and Commission on a new presentation. The following motion (Cummings/Dann) passed unanimously:
“The Budget Committee requests that the Board of Selectmen direct the Town staff to consider a more comprehensive presentation of all budget matters related to the Opera House.”

Chamber of Commerce
Karen Noyes handed out copies of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Town and Chamber related to the operation of the Opera House, which is due to revision and/or renewal. The Chamber pays rent and a portion of the utilities. The Chamber is responsible for promoting and scheduling events in the Performance Venue, and receives 50% of the net income. Carrie Gendreau apologized for the lack of quarterly reports and assured all that this would be remedied.
Greg Allaire reported that more and more events are being scheduled with some 84 occurring so far in 2015, with an estimated revenue to the Town of about $4,900. Currently the Chamber is experiencing a complete turn over in staff and is actively seeking a new Executive Director. Greg raised the point about the staff positions traditionally have been low paying and something would have to be done to attract quality people. There will be a warrant article probably asking for $15K to assist in operating costs. Greg added that the Conference Room is being used frequently but there was some confusion as to whether or not a fee schedule was in place. Window treatments should be considered to improve the energy efficiency and comfort of this room.
There exists some confusion about the relative roles of the Town Administration Staff, Opera House Commission, and Chamber of Commerce (as well as the now defunct OH Facility Committee). All agree that it was time for a new model, one that is streamlined and clear regarding respective responsibilities.

Mt. Washington Regional Airport
For the time in many years, members of the airport board presented information on their operation and budget. There is an open-ended agreement (IMA) between the Airport and five member towns, and part of that includes a per capita annual fee. Littleton is by far the biggest member town and in 2016 our fee will be around $8,600. Traditionally, since this is form of a contract, the fee has been included in the town budget. The biggest money maker for the airport, however, is selling aviation fuel.
Mt. Washington is an FAA-regulated general aviation airport. The operating budget is around $90K annually. Capital improvement funding comes primarily from the FAA (90%), the remained coming from the state and member towns. Users of the airport are about evenly split between large commercial entities (such as the Littleton Coin Company) and area residents and vacationers. Steve asked if the airport representatives to provide the Committee with financials for 2014 and year-to-date 2015.
Dann posed the question “What’s in it for me, a taxpayer who does not use the airport?” Dann would like to see the users of the airport pay for it. The airport representatives expressed the importance of the boarder economic impact on the local economy, and the availability of the airport to all in case of an emergency.
Next Meeting: 17 November, 4 PM, Community Center
Ron Bolt, Secretary