Friday, February 2, 2007
FinCom hearings continue - insurance and retirement pose challenges
The Finance Committee had asked each department to prepare a budget that fits within the guideline limit of a 2.9% increase, as well as a budget that shows what is needed to maintain current services and one that includes reasonable growth. Their January 29 meeting concentrated on the following areas: Department of Public Works (DPW), Town Treasurer, Town Hall and General Expenses. General Expenses included such items as Town Counsel, Town Administrator, Town Accountant, Administrative Assistant, as well as expenses associated with the Board of Selectmen, Historic Commission, Board of Appeals, Finance Committee, and the new Housing Authority.
Salaries for most full- and part-time personnel reflect a 3.5% increase for FY08. Exceptions include Town Administrator, Administrative Coordinator, Town Accountant, and Treasurer where the increases range from 3.9% to 6.5%. However, within each department the 2.9% guideline limit was realized with the exception of two items included in an account called "Other": Group Insurance (15% increase over FY07 budget) and County Retirement (12% increase over FY07 budget). Chair Thornton Ash said, "I'll have a better number for Group Insurance on February 15."
With the exception of those two items, budgets for the accounts reviewed at this meeting meet the 2.9% guideline while the Growth Budget would result in a 4.8% increase.
A light note intruded into the deliberations as the FinCom encountered a spreadsheet showing an increase in its own budget of 37.6%. That amounted to $82. By way of explanation member Dave Model said, "I went to one conference but I didn't even put in for mileage!"
Department of Public Works
Each department had its own methodology for achieving the guideline limit. Superintendent Gary Davis was commended for his clear presentation of the DPW, transfer station and road maintenance budgets. To balance salary increases beyond the guideline, the snow and ice removal account will be held at the FY07 budget (not this winter's actuals), and the road maintenance account will be held to a 1.3% increase.
Finance director Larry Barton cut almost $1,400 from the training budget in order to meet the department guideline but recommended that it be left in the department's Growth Budget at the FY07 budget level of $6,400. When asked about the content of this item, Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie responded that some individuals need specific training in the software Microsoft Excel. Barton said, "I'd like to see some individuals trained in Microsoft Access — we are looking at various training options."
By holding most items at the FY07 budget level, the guideline for the Town Hall was realized. McKenzie said that for the Growth Budget she would like to see computer maintenance increased from $5,177 to $19,000 in order to handle issues with Town Hall systems.
For the Growth Budget, McKenzie recommended that the budget for audit and actuarial services be increased from $28,000 to $40,000.
Several times during the meeting, Ash said that cuts would have to be made but asked the Finance Committee members to reserve judgment on specifics until the remaining budget hearings are completed.
The next meeting is scheduled for February 5. The agenda includes budgets for Inspection Services, Assessor and Town Clerk.
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