By: Maria Moore, NewHartfordPlus.com
Having had the good fortune to be elected to the Board of Finance to finish out the term of a resigning member, it has become a balancing act for me to report on the doings of this Board. With this in mind, below is the video of the June 12, 2012 Board of Finance meeting with a brief summary of the items that were discussed. Commentary is at a minimum – Maria Moore, general factotum, NewHartfordPlus.com.
Board of Finance June 12, 2012 Meeting – Video
Summary of Board of Finance June 12, 2012 Meeting
The meeting began with Joe Gareis, alternate, being seated in Kate Rieger’s place. Some of the items discussed included:
Annie Witte, the town’s Bookkeeper, reported on the town revenues as of June 11 (the day before the meeting). Annie reported that the current tax collection rate stood at 98.41% as of the beginning of June, as reported to Annie by Linda Sheffield, the town’s Tax Collector. This was as in previous years.
Ben summarized that by the end of the fiscal year, there would be about $200,00 surplus plus the 146,000 carried forward from the current year so that there would be about $350,000 to put into the next year’s budget. Annie emphasized that the schools’ Special Ed. costs were significantly higher than had been budgeted.
Board of Finance To Receive Capital Expenditures Updates
On the expenditures side, Annie said the expenditures would be within budget, no problem. Joe Gareis asked about the status of capital expenses, and Annie said she wasn’t ready to address that, she hadn’t expected the question to come up. She explained that the capital items have the funds transferred from the general fund into a capital reserve account that gets tracked separately for each individual project. Ben Witte said that they should really see where the projects that were identified for this year stand. Annie asked if they wanted to see that for the year-end and Joe and Ben agreed. Maria Moore asked if it would be possible to see the figures as the projects get closed out. Ben said they should look at that quarterly and Maria agreed, saying it would be nice to have some idea of where things stood. Annie said that wouldn’t be a problem. Reggie Smith said that all that information is in the town audit as of last June. Ben said that the Board looks at other revenues and expenditures on a monthly basis and it would be good to see the capital periodically, with Maria adding: “Quarterly would be great.”
Jim Fitzgerald asked about the Ambulance Association figure (23 mins. into the video), saying that it had been adjusted down last year from $75,000 and that it had been sent in as $75,000 for this year and had been approved. Maria asked whether any of the large surplus that had been built up was also going to come back to the town in some way. Ben said they couldn’t address that but they could address what was in the budget. The RRDD#1 budget was also discussed, and the surplus they had built up.
First Selectman’s Report Given By Annie Witte
First Selectman Dan Jerram was attending the Regional # 7 Graduation that evening and so Annie gave his report (31 minutes into the video).
The USDA funds, $455,891 that had been left over from the money received from the USDA for the wastewater treatment plant project, had been returned to that agency. ”Do we still have access to that money?… Perhaps for sewer extensions?” Maria asked and Annie said she wasn’t sure, but that the WPCA was on top of that.
Annie reported on several town roads being worked on. Maria asked if there’d be any surplus from the sand and salt budget because of the mild winter and Annie said that would probably be used to do some of the roadwork she’d mentioned. Ben added he wouldn’t be surprised to see some action on Steele Road too, since that had been budgeted for.
Update On RRDD#1 Sports Fields Requested, Declined By Chair
At the end of the First Selectman’s report given by Annie, Maria said it would be nice to have an update on the proposal by RRDD#1 and Barkhamsted for sports fields at the transfer station (42 mins. into the video). She added that at the last Rec Commission meeting Rick Berneike had presented on behalf of the First Selectman a full plan that had been done for Antolini for playing fields. “These are large ticket items and there could be a duplication there,” she said. Ben said that it was up to the selectmen on how they chose to use the money they had funded for it (Antolini). “I’m sure they’ll tell us what they did and what they’re doing,” Ben said.
Maria agreed there was $25,000 in the budget for Antolini, adding: “Of broader implication would be to have football fields available for the Gilbert/Regional # 7 football team… It would be really nice to get an update from the selectmen and perhaps weigh in on that discussion.” Ben said they were probably at different ends of the spectrum in their involvement with that. “My involvement is $28,000 and trusting the people to spend it as they see fit, knowing that they may come back for more money if there’s something better to do that costs more money.” Ben said. “Ours is a financial involvement. There’s lots of ideas and opinions and I would really try to steer this Board, unless people really feel otherwise, away from what Recreation does and particularly with football.” “Where the involvement should be,” Maria said, “Is this will be a Regional need and whether that would better be participated with other towns as opposed to our footing the whole bill here in town.” Ben answered: “I fully expect that the people who are on the front lines of that will weigh in and consider what they ought to do long before they bring it to the Board of Finance for our input or to ask for money… I’m sure we’ll get a chance to weigh in once things take shape… It’s not our issue at this point.”
Jim Fitzgerald agreed with Ben, but said he’d be interested from the Board of Finance point of view, to know where they were at with the possibility of closing Bakerville (School), and the discussion of going K-12 which means getting them out of Region 7, building a new school at Antolini, tearing down the old school at Antolini and moving all the sports up to Brodie South.” Ben said he’d just gotten a letter from the (local schools’) Board of Ed Chairman who wanted to get together to talk about consolidating schools. “I don’t know if it was along the lines of what you’re saying but it would be a fair question,” Ben told Jim. “It’s an interesting concept, K-12,” Jim said. “They already did the study…” Joe Gareis said but Jim said: “No, it’s K-12 in New Hartford only. Get out of Region 7.” None of the other Board of Finance members had heard anything about that. Ben told Jim that he might want to bring that up when they met with the (local schools) Board of Ed.
Request From Board Of Ed Chairman For Joint Meeting To Discuss Consolidation Of Local Schools
Ben read out a letter he’d received from Bryan Keilty, the local Board of Ed Chairman, (50 minutes into the meeting), who was requesting a joint meeting with the Board of Finance, the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Ed to discuss the consolidation of New Hartford schools. “A consolidation proposal will likely be very controversial for some residents, and it is critical that the Boards of Ed, Finance and Selectmen are mutually supportive of any forthcoming recommendations,” Bryan said. After a brief discussion Ben said he’d get back to the Board of Ed to tell them the Board of Finance is anxious to get involved in the meeting. The Board of Finance’s July meeting would be offered as a possible meeting date.
Commissions’ Control Over Expenditure Of Own Budget Brought To The Board
The last item to be brought before the Board, under ‘Any other items to come before the Board,’ was that of the town’s commissions’ ability to use the funds allocated to them within the town budget to fulfill their commissions’ charges without their being required to seek the First Selectman’s approval (55 minutes into the meeting). Maria brought this to the Board of Finance for clarification of the town policy since several commission chairs and members had expressed concern that they were now being required to receive the approval of the First Selectman before they could use the funds allocated to them for their commissions’ work. This approval process, they maintained, was a fairly recent change since in the past they had been able to directly engage the necessary services. Annie confirmed that Bill Baxter and his treasurer had come up with the purchase order policy, with dollar limits beyond which the approval of the First Selectman had to be secured. “It’s part of the matrix for that policy,” Annie said. A lively discussion ensued among the board members, with the majority agreeing that it was part of the policy and an operational matter that rested with the selectmen. Maria wanted to know what the policy was based on, a question that was still unanswered by the end of the meeting.
The issue regarding the approval aspect of the purchase order policy was discussed at the subsequent Board of Selectmen meeting on June 26. The video of this meeting is currently being processed and will be posted on NewHartfordPlus in the next day or so.