Board of Selectmen Meeting Minutes & Agendas

Nov 30, 2015

Work Session Minutes Nov 30, 2015

4:00 PM

Present: Town Manager Andrew Dorsett, Chairman Milton Bratz, V. Chairman Schuyler Sweet, Selectman Edward Hennessey, Executive Secretary Ceil Stubbings, Finance Director Karen Noyes

Others Present: Chief Paul Smith (Littleton PD), Darin Wipperman (The Courier), Rudy Gelsi, Dann, Chief Joe Mercieri (Littleton FD)

Bratz called the meeting to order at 4:00 PM.

Karen Noyes went over the complete default and proposed budget by department. Each item that had an increase was explained. Noyes provided a comprehensive review of the proposed Police Department budget highlighting the range of items that contribute to the total increase in their budget. Noyes said the PD Budget has an approximate 16% increase. Part of the increase is the request for two new officers, there is a 2.25% increase pay increase on four individuals. There is a new part time officer for twenty nine hours a week. The added officers also affect the insurance, social security and other benefits, uniforms and communications. There is also an increase in training costs. Noyes then pointed out other increased costs in the budget. They also included the purchase of a new vehicle that also includes the setup. Noyes stated that the vehicle purchase used to be a warrant article but the intention is to include it in the budget. The budget also includes the purchase of body cameras at an estimated $12,000. Sweet said he understood the Chief’s thinking that the vehicle is an operational expense versus being a warrant article. Sweet asked the Chief if the department needs a new vehicle per year. Smith said yes. Sweet asked how many vehicles they have. Smith said they currently have five vehicles. Sweet asked how many miles are they putting on them per year. Smith said he could not answer that. Smith said the supervisor’s vehicle is the one we are planning on replacing and has very low mileage. Sweet said that if they put on 50,000 miles and it is going to last five years then a vehicle a year makes a lot of sense. Bratz said the ones that they replaced recently were at or over 100,000 miles. Smith said the vehicle they want to replace has 104,000 on it now and at replacement time it will have approximately 120,000 miles. Smith said that when vehicle replacement was in the budget we were replacing them when they had around 80,000 miles on them.

Noyes then went over the fire department budget and noted they had three recent staff retire. They have advertised for the open positions. Noyes covered the highway department budget and noted the biggest part of the increase is the higher cost for salt. She then covered the library and noted the increase was due to equipment maintenance costs, a 2.25% pay increase and additional hours. Noyes provided a brief overview of the parks and recreation budget. The increases have to do with property and liability increases, pay increase, slight changes in health insurance and retirement. Hennessey asked what the deductible was on the property and liability insurance. Noyes said it is currently $1,000. Hennessey asked if we have looked at increasing the deductible. Noyes said she will look when she is looking for RFP’s. Noyes said that if they increase the deductible they will have to increase the budget.

Noyes said debt service has an increase because they added in the highway department new building payments. They also have the highway truck and the excavator lease payments. There is also a full payment on the Main Street Improvement principal. Noyes then reviewed the Opera House budget. There was a suggestion by the budget committee to break out the revenues and the expenses on the Opera House. After a complete review of the budget Noyes said the proposed budget would result in an estimated $7.35 per thousand tax rate. The default budget is estimated at $6.91 per thousand tax rate. Noyes asked the board if they approved of the recommended changes regarding the presentation of the Opera House Budget. The board approved the recommended changes.

Dorsett then presented the estimated warrant articles. The Energy Conservation Committee is requesting a warrant article for an energy tax exemption. He is not sure if they are proposing a petitioned warrant or if they are requesting the board to put it on. The exemption would be for people who have renewable energy. Hennessey asked if there were state and federal exemptions on renewable energy. Sweet said yes. Hennessey said that if they are doing it to save money why give them a tax credit as well.

Chief Joe Mercieri explained the items he has requested for the warrant. Bratz asked what the total would be if everything passes. Noyes said the tax rate for the 2016 proposed budget with the warrant articles would be $9.24. Bratz asked what they would like from the board. Noyes said she would like to hear some recommendations. Bratz said he had a proposal. He spent time going over the last five warrants. His concern is the jump in this years proposed budget. Bratz presented a document showing the budget history over the past five years. The proposal read as follows:

“Given the above large increase in the proposed budget relative to previous years, in combination with the recent tax rate adjustment of $1.13 and the default budget increased projection of 2.7%, passage of the proposed budget in March, 2016 is very doubtful. Facing significant increases in all three of these categories and, additionally, with no control over the impact petitioned warrant articles may have on the final tax rate, creates a near “perfect storm” from a tax oversight perspective. Accordingly, as the select board, we may want to consider only endorsing the default budget amount plus a small added sum to cover a comparable wage adjustment for non-union employees to that received by bargaining unit members. And any department by department expansion proposals should either be put off until next year or placed as separate articles on the 2016 Warrant.”

Bratz said they supported the police department last week which had a large increase. Bratz said that everything in the budget is legitimate, but hard for the board to defend. Hennessey said the big increase is in the PD. He expects the budget committee will want to move those items to the warrant. Bratz said his concern is with the default budget that triggers an increase that they have no control over. Bratz said it is because of the bond and insurance changes. Sweet said the jump has to do with things no under their control in both health and liability insurance. Sweet said that is nobody’s fault. Sweet said there is not control over those items. Bratz said they are waiting for the budget committee to make a recommendation. Noyes asked for a recommendation to take back to the budget committee. The board said they already made a recommendation on the PD budget. Noyes asked Bratz if he would be attending the budget committee meeting. Bratz said he planned to be in attendance. Noyes then asked if she could share the document and proposal he presented at this work session. Bratz said it was ok. Bratz reiterated his concern is the size of the default budget and what happens to them if all of the warrant articles pass. Hennessey said the community thinks both the police and fire departments do a very good job. He does not feel there is any concern about the safety of the community other than the growing opiate problem. He is expecting that if the budget committee approves it, they are going to want it as a warrant article. Bratz asked for a motion to adjourn. Hennessey made the motion to adjourn. Sweet seconded the motion. Motion passed 3-0. The work session adjourned at 5:47 PM.