Friday, February 26, 2010
FinCom heads for the finish line
The Finance Committee (FinCom) budget hearings finally ended on Washington’s birthday, February 22, capping off a two-month struggle of Winter Olympic proportions. Although they missed a few gates on their daring run, FinCom members deserve a medal for determination in trying to enforce their guideline budget.
Chair David Guarino began the meeting by reviewing the allocation of free cash. “Twenty-seven thousand dollars was assigned to operating expenses in the budget, $75K went to the Stabilization Fund, net requests over guidelines reached $244K ($316K over-budget minus $72K under-budget), plus COLA (Cost Of Living Allowance, determined by the Board of Selectmen to be 2%) costs of about $40K brings the total to $386K,” said Guarino. “Add in some other numbers that we’re expecting and we’re somewhere around $410K but that’s assuming that every request over guidelines is approved, which we don’t think is going to happen.”
FinCom’s goal for free cash usage is around $300K and attacking the $316K over guideline requests will be the main topic of next week’s meeting. Finance Director Larry Barton pointed out that $75K of the $300K is going into the Reserve Fund, “so it’s taking it out of one reserve and simply parking it in a different reserve. The net impact on total reserves is about $225K.”
During a lull, Fire Chief Dave Flannery popped into the Heald Room to ask FinCom for a new fire engine, later estimated to cost roughly $400K. Accompanied by Long-Term Capital Requirements Committee (LTCRC) Chair Don Rober, Flannery explained that it is the last piece of apparatus in his long- range plan. “Engine 6 is a 1986 vehicle that has some problems with the pump, which has a tendency to stop pumping when it encounters an air pocket.” Flannery also spoke ill of the four-wheel drive and described the turning radius as “horrendous” where “we have to do a three-point turn to exit onto Westford Street.”
FinCom member David Model expressed shock and surprise regarding the fire truck. “We saw you [Flannery] – didn’t hear anything about it. We saw Don – didn’t hear anything about it. How does something this massive not come up?” Flannery countered that it was on his list last year and on the second page of this year’s LTCRC list. Rober agreed that “20 years is probably the right time to replace it and we’re at 24 now.” He emphasized that if we wait any longer, “we’d be paying for it and the schools at the same time.”
Flannery also asked for $30K of additional funding for a cistern to be located in the center of town on the east side of the fire station. He has approximately $90K remaining from a previous allocation of $200K and a 30,000 gallon cistern can run up to $120K, especially if ledge is encountered. “Oak Knoll was the first cistern done by the town,” said Flannery. “This will be the second.” Other cisterns recently installed have been built at the expense of Hanover Hill and Greystone Crossing developments.
It remains for Long-Term Caps to make a recommendation, which “can happen next Thursday,” according to Rober. The engine then needs to be added to the Town Warrant for a vote and possible debt exclusion. The cistern, however, is “an ideal reason to use free cash,” according to Barton. “It’s a one-time shot.”
Marc Lamere of the Planning Board revealed that the MAGIC (Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination) expense of $1,338 has been moved from the Planning Board budget to the more appropriate Town level budget. This reduction results in a Planning Board budget request of $77,221 for FY11. Adding $1,522 (2% COLA) raises the final amount to $78,743, which is slightly above the level-funded guideline budget of $78,559.
Planning Board Chair David Freedman explained the reasoning behind a Warrant Article that the Planning Board is sponsoring at the Annual Town Meeting. “This is a request for funds to support professional planning along with architectural and engineering services,” said Freedman. FinCom had previously eliminated Planning and Professional funds from the Planning Board budget. “The amount for the first two years would be on the order of $5,000,” said Freedman. “The goal is to have a fund of a minimum of $10,000 to allow for the engagement of consultants as necessary for planning activities.” As done in the past, the Board of Selectmen would be consulted before engaging consultants for any major expense.
Board of Health
The Carlisle Board of Health (BOH) was pleased to report that it was successful this past year in securing two major sources of revenue through grants. “The Board received a grant of $10,000 from the Community Septic Loan Program,” said Chair Jeffrey Brem. “This is the first installment of the full $20,000, which is intended to help communities establish and maintain the loan program.” Also received were Public Health Emergency grants of $17,244 for such items as four H1N1 clinics (run by BOH at no cost to the town) and $4,880 to purchase a trailer to support local Medical Reserve Corps and Emergency Response activities.
The BOH was assigned a level-funded guideline FY11 budget of $77,491 by the FinCom, which after adding a 2% COLA, was increased to $78,974. After including a step increase, the final proposed BOH budget reaches $80,356. The BOH then allocated $6,563 of their grants (minus $554 resulting expense) and submitted a final budget request for $74,347, almost 5.9% below guideline. “Next year we hope to be similar,” said Brem. Treasurer Larry Barton explained that “there is a difference of opinion” as to whether grant money can be used to reduce the BOH operating budget. “I would urge you to go with $80,356,” said Barton. “If the grant funds are allowed, we can transfer the $6,563 to free cash.”
Peter Burn, chair of the Conservation Commission (ConsCom), began by explaining “the dilemma that we got ourselves into.” ConsCom submitted a budget two years ago that proposed drawing on their two wetlands accounts to support a portion of their operating expenses. However, new filings have significantly fallen off to such a degree that the revolving funds are becoming depleted more rapidly than anticipated. To avoid depleting the wetland accounts further, ConsCom is requesting an increase in the general budget for FY11 of $9,152.
The ConsCom guideline budget calls for a level funding of $60,125. Adding a 2% COLA plus the $9K supplemental adjustment brings the number up to $70,742, an increase of almost 18%. “Does the additional $9K fix the problem in the revolving account?” asked FinCom member Jerome Lerman. “In the short term it does,” responded Burn. “The long-term solution is increasing our fees.” Lerman then followed up by asking what will happen if the increased fees are unable to “plug the hole in the dike.” Burn quickly replied, “We’ll be back!”
Recreation Commission member Rick Amodei provided a low-key finale to the FY11 budget hearings by agreeing to the guideline budget of $111,462, a reduction of $5,000 over FY10. “We assume that we can pull it off,” said Amodei. “We may have to cut something - don’t know what.” That was all the FinCom members needed to hear and Amodei was sent on his way.
The Finance Committee will meet again on March 1, at which time they will confront the over-budget requests and review the draft Warrant. ∆
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