Selectboard Meeting Notes – FY23 Budget Season Begins

selectboard nov 1 2021

The Brattleboro Selectboard kicked off their FY23 budget season with an overview of the proposed town budget by Town Manager Peter Elwell. Questions were limited at this meeting, allowing the board and the public to take in a broad overview. Deep dive questions begin next week.

One of the lengthier passages in this meeting was a discussion of prepaid assigned funds compared to unassigned funds and how they both are accounted for legally and financially.

Comments | 6

  • Preliminaries

    Pre-meeting banter – different colored highlighters, angry highlighters, post-it people…

    Tim Wessel has a change to the Oct 19 minutes – on page 2, at the bottom, line 45, it says “Wessel says he’s in favor of both items…” I’m pretty sure I was advocating for more of the surplus salary savings. The recommendation was $200k and I advocated for $100k. So I’d like more returned to the general fund.

    Daniel Quipp – I review the minutes as Town Clerk. I generally concur with how they are presented and sometimes suggest little changes. I don’t recall thinking this was wrong.. Tim remembers better than I, but maybe Jessica wants to look at the tape?

    Elizabeth – I’m inclined to trust Tim.

    Tim – it reads as if I don’t want anything to go to the fund. I just wanted it at a lesser amount.

    Daniel – I honestly can’t remember. I’m reluctant to change the content without checking back on it.

    Liz – it makes more sense if the change is made. He wasn’t disinclined to vote on the fund, just wanted a lesser amount.

    Daniel- oh, I thought line 45… ok, that’s fine.

    Elwell – it is rare that any of you find anything in the minutes to pick at. The thing to point out is that it is appropriate to point out as you are doing now, all recalling something else, or going back and watching it again. Depending on the complexity of the conversation – there isn’t a right or wrong, and you can do this tonight. It would be equally appropriate to defer and check the tape. I think your motion is to approve as presented, with the modification at line 46 discussed by the board.


    Chair Elizabeth McLoughlin – I have no remarks.

    Peter Elwell – On behalf of Jessica Sticklor – to remind everyone applying for Human Services funding that the deadline is 5pm next Tuesday, directed to her –

    Daniel – In SEVCA tonight. We got a piece of information from the state about a new benefits program. It is modeled on the state’s fuel assistance program. This is for water customers. It’s called Household Water Assistance. For families that qualify, there is a simple application on the website. More generous than food assistance, so many will qualify. Goof for overdue balances, or if you struggle you’d likely be eligible and the state will pay into your account. Not a COVID program. Just income eligible. Many will benefit. Yet to see it in the evening newspaper.

    Ian Goodnow – a committee report on Board of Civil Authority. Doing interesting stuff – reapportioning districts is happening. It goes from the legislative board to local boards, then back to them. We’re in the middle of that process now, and giving Town Clerk some guidance on changes to the election process for some clarity of movement of people through the poll station. That process is not over yet and we’ll meet again next week.

    Liz – public? Anyone?

    Kurt Daims – I live in Brattleboro and am pretty upset about the climate conference. Scientists say that we need unprecedented, dramatic, revolutionary immediate action to prevent doom in a few years, and something new, that it isn’t the climate upsetting young people so much as people aren’t doing anything about it, feeling betrayed. And now the holiday crisis is coming and people are buying things and won’t have money. We need to talk about it with their families. On Thanksgiving talk about the crisis and how to prepare. I’ve seen people change, Tim – you’ve changed. You face has changed. I thought you were thinking about your little boy. People need to talk and not pretend it isn’t happening. maybe convene the RTM. Talk on Thanksgiving and maybe we can get something going.

    Alex Fischer – happy Tuesday meeting. I have a question – excited about the fund recently created for community safety and curious about the timeline and process of how they are available. People are stressing…folks would love to know.

    Elwell – at the time I proposed the creation of it, I anticipated proposing additional funding in the bdindget – and now there is an additional $100k proposed. The plan was to firmly establish the commitment to alternative ways of creating safety, without criteria or a process, to address the need and the setting aside the funds, so there could be discussion about the process before they are distributed by the selectboard. Similar to the $70k for fossil fuel free facilities. The money was set aside, and the board will make an allocation now that the rules have been made more clear. We’re doing budget now and a new Town manager Dec 6, so over the next few months there will be more about that process.

    Alex – $200k before June 30?

    Elwell – by creating the fund we set aside funds for this purpose. $200k put in this year from a surplus to create the fund. Now before the board will be to request $100k more going in next July, making it $300k to allocate.

    Alex – so you’ll keep us in the loop? OK.. good. people were stressing over the process… it isn’t figured out yet. many of us would like to be a part of figuring it out – ways to create guidelines to disperse the funds.

    Tim – checking back in, didn’t we have a December additional report set?

    Elwell – yes, that might be a good focus for when to think about allocating funds… sometime in December. No specific date yet. Good suggestion, though.

    Daniel – let’s get a date for that meeting, sorted in the next week or so, especially with holiday schedules.

  • Consent Agenda

    A. VCDP Grant for Zoning Bylaw Modernization – Authorize Application

    B. Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant – Accept and Appropriate

    C. Nelson Withington Skating Facility – Ratify Expenses for Refrigerant Repairs+Recharge

    so consented…

  • COVID-19 – Continued Consideration of Hybrid Selectboard Meeting Protocols

    Liz – I’d keep the status quo unless anyone wants to discuss it further…

    Daniel – interesting to read my thoughts in VT Digger. I bumped into Kevin – someone who was tired at the end of a meeting – I want to reframe where I’m at. The last time we spoke, I thought that Liz was in favor about remaining in zoom for safety for yourself and the community. For my own needs, I know that everyone else is making decisions about tolerance for risks right now and making those decisions everyday. Fo me, I cannot really be honest and say I’m ok with meeting on zoom. I need to be in person in a room to discuss the budget and community safety and do the business of the people. I’d like to be more accessible and relate to you beyond the two-dimensional. It’s not working for me. I feel disconnected. last week I felt kinda crappy. Because we have the hybrid system, members can participate as they see fit, but I want to meet in person. I need to speak up for myself.

    Tim – I’ll admit that I’m pretty much of the same mind as Daniel, with my special reason to be on the fence is it helps me to see a full face, and ironically in person I can’t see full faces, but I’m in favor of in person board meetings. The idea to try them at the fire station is a good one. People might be more comfortable there. I’m on team Daniel on this one. I see a lot of people struggling with it, and some taking more risks. I think we should do it.

    Daniel – I can make a motion…

    Liz – It’s all well and good that we take care of ourselves and want to do the right thing. I’m concerned our governor isn’t concerned about the risk. The numbers are high. I can read charts. They are bad. I don’t want to put anyone at risk for holidays. No one is screening people coming to the meetings. It is open to the public. People might go to a restaurant or Stine Church – they take precautions we can’t take in our meetings. If our meetings were an hour, let’s give it a shot, but a four hour meeting in an enclosed space not knowing if fellow citizens are vaccinated. It’s my concern for the public as a whole.

    Daniel – are you concerned for yourself?

    Liz – yes, but the community as a whole….

    Daniel – the public will decide… we aren’t in a position where everything is closed. People make choices everyday. Only six people have to be there – us and Peter, and others may attend, but we have a hybrid system. The ones who have to be there are us 6. Don’t want to keep kicking it down the road into winter.

    Tim – and Patrick. Daniel – you mentioned it already. Jess and Liz were comfy it it dropped below 50.. but is that no longer a bar?

    Liz – Kevin took a bad screenshot of us all.. if there was a rapid test as people entered the building. Nobody knows until after they have it unless they have a rapid test before a meeting.

    Tim – there are all sorts of things you don’t know.

    Ian Goodnow – there isn’t a right answer – just a balance to be struck by the board. I agree with daniel – if we agree to meet in person, it will be hybrid, so my concern would be if town staff or anyone who didn’t have a choice, like someone presenting. The public gets to just choose. They can be on zoom or in person.

    Elwell – that is something we’ve discussed. Any staff that wanted to present via zoom could do that. Staff did that this summer. Means they don’t have to sit here waiting for hours.

    Jessica Gelter – over the last few weeks, months, I’ve been exploring my own safety, visiting indoors with no masks and no vaccination checks, and being indoors where there were vaccination checks and masks. I do understand the concerns Liz has about public safety, this let’s the public take responsibility for themselves and what makes them feel safe – at a meeting or on zoom. Ready to come back in person.

    Elwell – if you do vote on a motion, could it include the ambiguity, since we are having weekly meetings now, two weeks from now we could be at the first station, but not sure if BCTV is ready for next week. So, if you could phrase it by or before Nov 16 we’d appreciate that.

    motion to resume unperson meeting by or before Nov 16, masks mandatory. 4-1 (Liz nay)

  • Selectboard’s Annual Goals for 2021-2022 – Status Report

    Liz – there is an excellent summary of goals and what we’ve done to date. Any comments or things to add. Not necessary to run down each item. If you have particular items or amendments to make. Anyone?

    Tim – it’s always satisfying to see… some progress on almost every item. Some positivity!

    Liz – it is a pretty amazing report on our work this past year. Not only did we advance all these myriad of things but also hired a new town manager. I only wanted to add – better bus service to be recognized as a sustainability action and to have it better serve the public. I want to add it to our goals. It’s mentioned on item 5 under sustainability and that would be a good place to add that item. Anyone disagree?

    Ian – it’s good idea. I echo Tim and Liz’s points to see all the work that’s done. What I really see is all the staff work that has gone into it. I appreciate what the staff puts into it and interpreting what the board wants. As for specifics – community safety – how about add #3 define the methodology for implementing the community safety fund, or allocating the fund…

    Jessica – formalize, like the fossil fuel fund lower on the page?

    Liz – defining the method for fund allocation.

    Ian – the second one is a question to Peter – for Housing #3 – is Town staff needs more clarity on #3 because it is kinda vague.

    Elwell – we need more time, not clarity. Even though the ordinance was adopted last year, it was February before it went into effect, so we aren’t to one year yet, and for much of the time it has been the ability to get a read on things due to evictions and rental during COVID makes assessing the impact of the ordinance pretty challenging. We need to do this later, in 2022, and then you should talk about what you are trying to determine – limited data over an unusual period…

    Ian – a poke – for Utilities #1 – can we put some kind of timeframe on the stormwater utility or a, no…

    Elwell – No, we were hopeful, but as we discussed, the feasibility study we did was clear about info we needed, and we got the opportunity to have a stormwater master plan created for us/ with us, which would be our first step anyway, so it means a slower path but a huge benefit that when we are starting we’ll have the stormwater master plan to build upon. You’ve done what you could this year – you approved the stormwater master plan and other steps.

    Daniel – I concur with Ian about community safety criteria – for equitable and accessible process of disbursement of those funds. Definitely important that people know how to access that, and people who are marginalized might have less access to them than an organization with a grant writing staff. And the reviewing the rental housing ordinance – this isn’t the year. The world of housing is very strange – it was always going to be hard but this was a year with weird data point. But we should get feedback about it. And, the town website, where in the process are we? An RFP?

    Elwell – slow out of the gate. The volume of other things going on is high. That one is not as far along as we’d hope, but you’ll get an update during the budget process. The website money needs to be spent by June 30th, and it will be, but it will need to be a high priority, and recognize it. Just not something we’ve mad as much progress as we’d like. As for housing, we can get some feedback. There will be discussions here regarding the housing study – it’s almost done and will provide a focused moment to hear from the community on the rental housing ordinance.

    Jessica – my first question is under Covid recovery – restoring the vitality of outdoor spaces. This summer was fantastic. Now that it is colder, how does the momentum continue downtown? Is anything happening or planned or thought about?

    Elwell – the folks in the community that has organized activities – we help them and are flexible with public spaces – we’ll continue to be flexible, and some events naturally happen outdoor in the winter, and there will be other events. I din’t know of any specific items. If the two folks who are doing business in the parklets want to remain in the winter, they can. We can plow around them. We may change the configuration of the Hermit Thrush one, due to some things lost.

    Liz – a shout out to the New Jersey barrier

    Tim – a jersey barrier

    Ian – in High Grove – do we need to reassess it, like plowing the sidewalk..

    Elwell – the northern one is going away and the southern one might get more space, and it’ll be ok for plowing.

    Daniel – maybe no plowing will be needed.

    Jessica – I’m on board with the #3 community safety and setting a date in December. #2 under Diversity… can the learning come up to us so we have the same language and understanding as the staff has, or some public way of sharing it with the selectboard, so we can know what staff is talking about and considering.

    Elwell – a group of employees – a committee – IDEA committee – diversity, equity, inclusion… our HR director is lending some guidance and helping management to move in parallel with them, watching the same webinars… we can bring that to the selectboard level. Some thought should be given to it. let us think about it and bring something back to you.

    Jessica – you answered my web site questions…

    Elwell – In apologizing for the overall effort I overlooked the fact that there have been processes in the housing process, and in the community engagement for the website, and there have been really intentional efforts to improve the amount and quality of community engagement. It’ll go further. The project you challenged us to undertake was the website and community engagement improvements.

    Tim – I have not weighed in… I don’t need to. The one snarky comment – anyone interested in a report on the rental housing ordinance – buy me a beer and I’ll tell you.

    Elwell – you’ve made 3 specific asks to modify the goals – get the board in DEI work, work on community safety fund allocation, and to add a mention of improving bus service. First and third will be easy. The second one, defining the allocation… I’ve heard it two ways. I suggest staff work on this and being back modified goals. I heard to define the allocation process, but also criteria, accessible, and accessible. I think it is important to blend them and make it transparent as how to proceed. You can stop for tonight and we can bring these back for next Tuesday’s meeting.

  • Health Insurance Program – Renewal for Calendar Year 2022

    Elwell – We had a rough year among planned participants. Several significant claims, larger than average, and more than usual. In every way it was a rough year. The math of it was that the loss ration was 141% – they paid $141 for every $100 we paid. We all know how this works. When you have a bad year, you get a challenging renewal. Almost 15% increase in premiums. Richards Group helped bring the costs down a bit, and suggestions for changes to the plan. Ours is more flexible than most – like providing to coverage for people using out of network providers. You still get some payment from Blue Cross if you are outside the network. Most people have exclusive – go to one on the list of pay 100%.Blue Cross is very large and has a large network. Town has paid higher premiums for the flexibility. Doing away with that will save money. In a similar way, the national preferred formulary – list of drugs covered under the plan. Ours has been broader with more choices than is typical. Most use the national preferred formulary. So that’s another recommended change to reduce the cost increase this year and going forward. A concern is how much impact will this be to the users. In both cases, there is little disruption to anyone with coverage. Under 5 employees affected by these changes. Very few. Those are participants, not employees. Over 400 participants. Employees readily agreed with these changes to achieve these savings – there is formal process we follow. Started a while back with the big changes to health care. We worked with reps from each union and the non-union group and we all looked at options. Since then, we all look at the annual renewals, so we do them collaboratively with employees. It’s been really successful over the years. The third piece is increasing the deductible. It increases the HRA layer, from $4k for individual and $8k for couple/family to $5k and $10k. They pay first $3k and $6k, and the town pays the inbetween. It reduces the cost with Blue Cross premium, then the Town takes some additional risk, hopeful at or below or savings from Blue Cross. We think this will work for us this year because the likelihood of people penetrating the layer, getting above the $4k and 8k limits – the probability of anyone getting into that layer is small enough so we can draw down the dollars of town exposure the town has to pay. We’ve been about 5% more cautious than the actuaries say we can be. Want to be sure we are being prudent. These are the final dollars people are spending. The bottom line of the three changes is that there is higher deductible, national formulary, and exclusive providers brings down the increase from 14+% to 6%. W do have additional exposure, but the savings on premium is over that, so the net brings down the cost from a 12.3% increase to an 8.8% increase. Still high, but within the 5-10% that is normal for a year with substantial claims. We and employees are in the 3rd year of cost sharing on premiums. Employees share of the increased costs is going up by $55k. Overall cost increase in $219. Town pays the balance between the two. We recommend the rental of the plan as presented.

    Daniel – glad people meet to discuss this. I wondered how staff felt about this, after I digested the chart, the employee end of things, out of pocket expenses, have not changed.

    Elwell – correct

    Daniel – so we should approve a plan approved by town staff, and a plan with costs down for taxpayers. I hate all this, but thank you for the work. I support option 3.

    Ian – two questions – we are talking about changing health insurance during the pandemic – we are talking about reducing choice, which makes me uncomfortable. For the disruption analysis, while the number wa slow, was there any service or medication that was being acquired in the old setup, where it would be a much greater distance to access it?

    Elwell- can’t speak to travel distance. I can tell you that on the drug part of this, every one of the situations of disruption involved an easily replaceable medication. For the disruption to provider services, we didn’t look at geography , and din’t see any names, but we know very few will be disrupted. On the provider side it tended to be ancillary things – not general practitioners. The kind of service like physical therapy or chiropractic – not basic medical care, and that matter to those advising us. There is usually less choice for those things, and they are in the network.

    Ian – so the very fascinating HRA exposure analysis and whether it will pay off for us. Do we feel like the level of purity that the Richards Group gave is worth the 1.3% reduction in the overall renewal increase in option 3 over option 1.

    Elwell – yes. Because they have been equally clear about not using this tool in the past.

    Ian – if it were vague than I’d be considering not option 3, but I appreciate that and am all for option 3.

    Tim – I want to chastise my fellow board member for using the word Fascinating for the last subject. I appreciate employees and management coming together to save them and taxpayers money. That should go noticed. I was on this board when we moved for the 1% share, then 3% share, then 5% share… skin in the game. It makes the team feel more like a team. The quick math on the premiums – we get 5% employees share in 2022. That is $40 a month, or $106 for a family per month. I recently had to get insurance for me and my son, and these are great prices. We should move to a 10% match in the next few years. Send those signals out, especially given the good employee pay lately. For the taxpayers.

    Daniel – that would be collective bargaining?

    Elwell – yes.

    Liz – my concern was about the out of network, and having our own issues this summer, Blue Cross is extensive. Another example of the Elwell negotiation of goodwill for an equitable solution. I like option 3.

    Option 3 approved!

    Break until 8:10

  • FY23 Proposed Budget – Town Manager’s Overview

    Pre-meeting banter about snacks, Halloween candy, candy corn desperation…

    Elwell – My annual apology – the budget document went out earlier today. We look forward to the detailed week by week process we’ll now go through. It is a process that is more enjoyable when we are doing the detailed pieces than what the next half hour will be like, but we should approach it seeing a bit picture – revenue streams, capital expenses. So, for the next half hour or so, I’ll go through the whole thing and give a quick statement about may different pieces.

    $19 million – an increase of $300k or 1.5% over Fy22. Overall, that’s pretty lean. That’s aggregate impact of things that are up and down, substantially. The impact to property taxes can be different. Notable cost decreases the transfer to the capital fund, debt service and workers comp payments. Notable cost increase include the first budgeted transfer to the fossil fuel fund, two new employee positions, and online permitting system, (and a fire thing?). Finally, there will be additional $100k allocation to the community safety fund. To be clear… this is a shift rather than an increase or decrease. Unlike the others, this one represents a reallocation of funds expected to be saved by continued vacancies in the police department. Equal to two entry level officers.

    To fund this, the property tax rate. I’m sorry to say initially it is a 3.5% increase a 4.7 cent increase, quite a lot more than normal. Typically increase like this were due to RTM decisions – to spend $140k for a second sidewalk plow. There have been multiple years where there were operational initiatives at RTM, like human services funding, when budgets have increased. But boards decisions to send a budget to RTM, you have been in the 2.5-3.5% space. Tonight, it’s the result of a nuance. I’ll take a deeper dive into accounting rules and our use of fund balance, which impacts the property tax rate. It will be annoying but should be explained thoroughly. The reason that matters, is overall we strive to take pressure off property taxes. The most significant one has been the local option sales tax – collecting $900k on that. It has reduced our reliance on property tax.. from 86.5% came from property taxes. Now we’d be at 81.4%. If you make a change I recommend, then we’d be at 80.4% reliant on property taxes. The rest would be the highest figure in over a decade – hard to recall a time when we collected that much non-property tax revenue. The efforts has been working,. so let’s not go backwards.

    There is a section in the 9 page written explanation to the board – a page devoted to the impact of prepaid expanse on available fund balances. So begins our journey into accounting rules. I want to be really clear. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if we had less fund balance than what we anticipated having. We’re sitting where we thought we’d be, but there is half a million dollars of it as assigned fund balance. Declared unavailable to us because it has been assigned. We work with the unassigned fund balance. Within that, we need to set 10% of the annual budget aside for rainy day fund. Remember Irene! I will recommend that this year, due to the pre-paid expenses, you can set aside 9%.

    So, the way prepaid expenses work – it is something paid in one fiscal year and applied in the next year. A payment in June for a bill in July goes to the next year’s budget but cash goes out in June. That’s part of the assigned fund balance. On the books, it looks like money still in hand when it is out the door. Next month will show that. The accounting rule is that you show the fund balance of the ending fiscal year, but assign portions of the fun balance. prepaid expenses get identified as assigned funds, but, here is the nuance… when we do more than the normal amount, we end up with what looks like very little fund balance, which is true for accounting purposes, but I now offer an explanation – let’s follow a dollar from June of one year for 13 months. A dollar from the FY21 budget expended as a prepaid expense showed up in our accounting as assigned fund balance on June 30th of 2021 and in the new fiscal year it remains assigned fund balance. The expense it paid also had a revenue associated with it. There is always enough revenue for new expenses. Typically and almost every year we end with a surplus, and that alls in tot he fund balance. That dollar of prepaid expense in June 2021, and assigned fund balance in 2022, but we also have a dollar of revenue to be intended to be spent to pay that expense. We have two dollars – the assigned fund balance and the dollar of revenue in FY22 – both are offsetting one dollar of expense. That comes around to getting reconciled on June 30 2022 the assigned dollar becomes unassigned as we go into FY23. The excess expenses – we paid more in – about $450k-500k more than normal. That half a million is assigned fund balance at this moment. So we look at what its unassigned to see what we can use in the coming year. If it was unassigned, it would be much simpler and much happier moment to start budget discussions. But, we prepaid those eposes and it is assigned fund balances at this moment, and if something like Irene happened in this fiscal year, it could eat into this rollover fund. Our expectation that the excess assigned will become unassigned next July 1. It will grow by $500k or so right away. For that reason, I recommend setting aside 9% to free up $200k, and that can increase property taxes to 2.2% or so.. more typical. Sorry it requires so much explanation, but all these things are real. What contains us to spending $50k of unassigned fund balance is our self imposed rule about setting aside 10%, so I suggest setting aside 9%. We can discuss in the weeks ahead.

    Liz – I want to reflect on what we just absorbed. You said the 10% or amount equivalent..the nature of this prepayment discussion to allow 9% to be equivalent to 10% in a normal year.

    Elwell – yea, a bit more than that. I proposed a budget assuming you will stick to 10%, but we’ll talk about this thing as a way to use a couple hundred thousand. You might choose to use more than this. It is prudent and limited to set aside 9% and free up $200k now. Accountants helped me understand this, and approved of my explanation. Also important that we talk about it as what it is.

    Daniel – I appreciate the attempt to explain it clearly and can almost follow. I know how hard it is to get it to be this simple. This is important and explaining it clearly is complicated. Is there any sort of visuals? It sounds a bit like a shell game… and I know it isn’t. Whatever we can do to make this easier to digest. Every town meeting rep will want to understand it. Unless I’m reading from the description I could get off track…

    Elwell – we can supply a table, and the written word. It requires accepting the nuance of going down to 9% isn’t irresponsible for one year. We can show the accounting in numbers as well as words.

    Daniel – if there are other ways to show this it could help – a lot of lay people will want to understand it.

    Elwell – and we want them to understand it. It is just recognizing the relationship between assigned and unassigned and how we assigned more than usual this year.

    Ian – I’ve been picturing it like the following raindrop through the water cycle.. but with a dollar. Do you think in the future we could have a historical record of what past 10%’s were?

    Elwell – You can do that yourself – 10% of each annual budget. Now that it is a $20 million budget it is $2 million. 9% was like 3 years ago when we were at $18 million. I’d reinforce the point – I wouldn’t ask you as a matter of convenience, so relating it to the older amounts… the point I’m trying to make is that monies exist – it’s just that we have more assigned that creates this situation.

    Jessica – How did this happen?

    Elwell – the payments that were made were made properly – bills in hand that got properly paid, and because we aren’t accountants we didn’t see it until the year end… oh no, not enough unassigned fund balance for this time of year. We thought there’d be a lot now, and there is, but more is assigned than we expected. We thought it was an error, but it just happened. The absence of a finance director has consequences… we have a candidate making a second interview this week and we can get back to a full time employee – in absence of this, we have a team doing the best they can, with supervision by an accountant. We could have paid some of those bills in July if a finance director had told us to warn us. But we didn’t have it and we just paid our bills as they were due. We’ll be keen to pay attention to this next June so it doesn’t happen in FY23.

    Jessica – since this is my first year, I am curious what the board’s relationship to that balance on July 1.

    Elwell – it’s what you propose and RTM authorizes – any use of fund balance must be approved by RTM. Even if you approve the 9% and RTM approves it. The actual number in July might be over 11%, but won’t be available unless you ask to spend it, so I recommend you go down to 9% so you can use more fund balance as we’ll discuss. This revenue is tied to investments in capital. You could have substantial cuts, or a large property tax increases, if you like our expenses. How do we fund those expenses? You can fund them with a bit more fund balance than usual to take pressure off property taxes.

    We’ve done the hard part, so let’s do the normal thing about what’s ups and down, broadly, in about 15 minutes, then we can talk more or not.

    So, the other categories, beyond property taxes and use of fund balance. Rooms & Meals gets us $400k usually. It’s coming back so we estimate $395k this year. Sales tax is doing better than predicted, maybe due to internet sales. We’ve had a couple of years over $900k, so we propose $950k, a $125k increase – a penny on the tax rate. It’s reliable revenue. We expect things to stay steady, or grow. Solid Waste revenues from bag sales and containers – we expect it to remain stable at $307k. Transfers from other funds for services provided for utilities – there is a formula to figure it out. The expectation is about $350k to the general fund from utilities. And other revenue we are seeing and increase – $162k – a penny and a half – $55k from increase in employee premiums for health care. $45k in town clerk fees, and $40k in penalties and interest in taxes and utilities – a temporary increase related to COVID we expect it to disappear in future years.

    In expenditures – staffing, we propose a larger increase of $332k to pay for salary increases in recent union negotiations, and $95k for two positions to be created. I know this will need discussion – we should save the deeper dive for later. One is an evidence technician for the police dept (Nov 23) and another is a human resources assistant (Nov 30 meeting). I think both positions are needed and benefitial.

    Employee benefits is about 18% of the budget, about usual. $3.6 million. Most is health insurance. An increase of 5.6% this year.

    For risk management, we see the benefit of really concentrated work over last few years. Much more attention to safety and reducing injuries, and to reduce claims and get people back to work sooner. Workers Comp is a $105k decrease in cost.

    Departmental purchases – supplies and services. The category is showing a significant increase, but most is the $100k to the community safety fund which shows up in budgets here rather than salaries. The general fund balance will have increased stormwater management costs – up $23k. Over $100k a year now. All because of stringent regulations by the state on public drainage systems. We are on top of it, and it is costing us significant funding. There is a $25k one time expense for strategic planning at the fire department. Also, a new line item for medical supplies for firefighters. legal category will go down $2700, to $116,000. That’s what we pay for Bob Fisher and related expenses. Human Services budget is shown better than in the past – we used to bring over last year’s allocations and that gets modified. This year is the first year of having an actual amount be directed to this part of the budget. It is calculated at 1.4% of last year’s total budget – $275k this year. That’s the overall allocation. The solid waste expenses are flat. there are elements of this – collection and disposal of garbage and compost and recycling – what we pay to buy bags and containers. The net of this is just about flat from last year.

    For capital projects I propose $562k transfer for these purposes, to be discussed on Nov 16th. $400k for street paving, $120k for sidewalk replacement is an increase of $20k. $12k for bike grant matching to implement bike lanes coming from exit 2. It is relatively simpler to agree on a plan from exit 2 to high to Green and street, rather than to go all the way into town. We propose a matching grant to implement phase 1 of this, with the idea to do High street later. Finally, $30k to replace the fire alarm system at Brooks Memorial Library. It’s malfunctioning and requires service calls.

    I won’t go item by item through the equipment. It’s the 2nd year of our planned replacement schedule. The list on page 8 shows each item, the cost, and what is being replaced by age. A grader or fire truck might last 20 years, but a small truck could be a few years… we spread the cost out over a 25 year period. BY doing this replacement scheduled, we limit the annual increase for next 25 years to about 1.8%. Things will be up to date with lower maintenance costs, increased trade in values, and public can see way out what the plan is.

    $70k to the fossil fuel facility fund is now in the budget. It’s 2/3 of a penny impact to the operating budget.

    Our debt service is going down. This year we get greater benefits when something is fully paid off. The Honeywell control system was on a long term lease and the final payment is this fiscal year, and it drops off in FY23 – $149k decrease in debt service, almost 12%.

    Other expenses category is decreasing by $37k this year. Primarily due to the website – $75k – we suggest $15k for online permitting and some other line items.

    The last thing – a reminder to the public that we will meet every Tuesday for November and much of December and into January to deal with the issues of this budget. Every Tuesday in November and into December – next week we’ll review all the revenues, public works, and recreation and parks revenues.

    Daniel – will Yoshi be coming to meetings?

    Elwell – He’ll do more as December goes on. I’ll get him acclimated and how we are functioning now.

    Ian – I’d love to wait and digest this, Thanks to Peter for the in-depth review. One night of a broad look and then we get into it in further weeks.

    Liz – OK

    Tim – Just wondering… happy with letting it all settle in, but I have questions … one will color my impression all of my meetings going forward. A quick statement and a question – with all that unassigned and assigned and realtime, it is a lot to take in but I feel that my bosses want to know two things – how much are taxes going up and what am I getting for that? Sometimes, if you leave questions for the end they get dominated by smaller questions. The question of the 9% – I have the institutional memory of Peter defending the 10% recommendation – Peter, if going down to 9% is not irresponsible this year, tell me why going down to 8% is…

    Elwell – 8% is taking more risk. Not irresponsible, in the realm of excess prepaid expenses. We know about $450k is the total amount of excess prepaid expenses. 1% is about $200k, with some security, and you’ll end up with 11% later. If you went to 8% and used $400k, you’d reduce the margin of error for a storm later in the year and while that is about risk, you’d be concretely reducing the amount of assigned fund balance that would free up… about $50k. You’d still be well south of 10% on July 1st of next year. I’d advise you to not be so bold. We can work this out, run some numbers and show what a few percentages look like… it could free up a bit more.

    Tim – thanks.

    Daniel – will we see the projections and the math? Can we?

    Elwell – yes. we’ll run it. I saw nodding. We’ll prepare it for next Tuesday’s meeting.

    adjourned !

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