Oct 27, 2015

Budget Committee Minutes Oct 27, 2015

Budget Committee: Steve Kelley, Diane Cummings, Muffy Copenhaver, Dann, Ron Bolt, Evan Nelson, Rudy Gelsi, Mike Stevens, and George Kirk
Town: Milt Bratz, Karen Noyes, Andrew Dorsett, Brian Patnoe, Joe Merceiri
Media: Darin Wipperman, Courier Editor, and LHS Intern Theo Augstein; and Bob O’Conner, LATV

  • The minutes of the 20 October meeting were approved as submitted.
  • It was agreed that members can abstain from voting, with good reason.
  • The Planning Board will reconstitute the Capital Improvements Program Committee
  • Steve and Diane will meet with the SAU superintendent on 4 November for a general, preliminary discussion about goals and expectations. Members are encouraged to send questions to Steve and Diane before the 4th.

Town Budget Overview:
Town Manager Andrew Dorsett indicated that the general guidance from the Board of Selectmen was to produce a budget that meets the needs and expectations of the citizens in a cost effective way. They also asked that the department heads look for soft areas in their budgets. Finance Director Karen Noyes stated her opinion that there is not much slack anywhere as evidenced by the fact that last year the town came within $13K of budget, or about 0.16%.
Diane asked when the budget would be approved by the Board of Selectmen and was told that the selectmen wanted to get the BC’s recommendations first. Karen indicated that they have seen, but not discussed, the Default Budget and some preliminary Proposed Budgets. The Town Budget Team handed out:

  • Answers to BC questions from 10/20
  • A roster of Call Company Members, currently numbering 21
  • Proposed budgets for the Transfer Station and Fire Department
  • Information used to calculate the tax impact of appropriations
  • The town’s Fund Balance Policy
  • The 2015 MS-1 form

Transfer Station
Revenues are projected to be down about $30K in 2016 due to declining values of recyclables. TS Manager Brian Patnoe indicated, for example, that scrap metal is expected to remain down for five years. He indicated that some paper mills have shut down recently, depressing the demand for paper. The capability to store items is critical in downward years. Karen mentioned that there had been discussion for some time about raising fees at the TS. Selectman Bratz requested that the BC recommend that the town look into increases fees. He added that we need to look at the TS as a source of revenue. One way to reduce operating costs would be to limit the part-time employee to 24 hours, not 24-32 as currently budgeted. Mentioned was made that if recyclables values continue to tumble, this could result in layoffs.
The following motion (Dann/Diane) was made and approved, as amended (Dann/Rudy), by a vote of 7-1: “The Budget Committee requests that the Town consider increasing fees at the Transfer Station in 2016 in order to make up for projected revenue losses and increased operating costs.”

Fire Department
Much of today’s discussion focused on a proposal to increase the budget by ~$13K to allow for two fire fighters to acquire training as paramedics. Fire Chief Joe Merceiri placed this in the context of a broad, long term plan to transition the department into a “fire-based EMS delivery system”. The planning for this transition is in the preliminary stages and, if adopted, might not be realized until 2017. Joe said he was not anticipating any 2016 warrant articles. Milt allowed as he had just recently heard about the idea. Joe stated that he is currently working on a complicated set of numbers which, when compiled, he will present to the Town Manager and recommend a study be performed.
Joe was asked to get competitive bids for his trash removal service. It was pointed out that the current service is a zero-sort environmentally sensitive program, and cannot easily be compared with providers that merely take the trash to the landfill.
Joe then expounded on his goals for 2016, that include:

  • Revising the Hazardous Material Plan, hopefully at no cost
  • Revising the Emergency Response Plan by 2017
  • Replacing Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus and associated compressor 
  • Forming an internal committee to examine what to do about Engine #3
  • Reorganizing the structure of the department to enhance fire suppression in rural areas
  • Replacing the fuel oil boiler
  • Establishing a capital reserve fund for major equipment purchases
  • Increasing the size of the Call Company by 25%

Next Meeting: 3 November, 4 PM, Community Center
Ron Bolt, Secretary