September 1, 2015 Strategic Budget Meeting

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September 1, 2015 Strategic Budget Meeting

Postby Mary Wright » Sat Oct 31, 2015 8:29 pm

STRATEGIC BUDGET COMMITTEE MEETING
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2015

A meeting of the Strategic Budget Committee was held on Tuesday, September 1, 2015 in the Municipal Center. Ms. Brouillette called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.

ATTENDANCE
PRESENT: Paula Brouillette (Chair), Pamela Holmes, Mike Hughes, Sherry Zetlan
NON-VOTING: Michael Guzinski (Town Administrator), Jeanne Lovett (Finance Director), Cortney Keegan (School Business and Operations Manager)
ABSENT: Dave Cortese (Vice Chair-Excused), Scott Yacino (Alternate-Excused)

1. Initial Recommendations
Ms. Brouillette stated the charge of the Committee and the areas of focus. The Committee is looking to present at the fall Special Town Meeting in November.
Ms. Brouillette feels that reviews of State Aid, State-Owned Land and the legislature’s and governor’s commitment to citizen towns in the State were identified at their last meeting with Representative Joseph McKenna.
Mr. Guzinski has not heard anything specific from Rep. McKenna since the last meeting. A lot of new revenues from the State have been diverted to other parts of the State budget, not to local aid. Mr. Guzinski feels their best hope in the short term is the Chapter 70 study. Ms. Zetlan stated that the preliminary report indicated that the Chapter 70 study committee wanted to look at health care and Special Education. There is a $2.1 billion gap that has to come from somewhere. If they do change Chapter 70 funding, a law will have to be changed, not just the formula.
Ms. Holmes suggested that Douglas start to establish economic development and a commercial industrial base and perhaps get assistance from the State to do so. She feels investment for a planner is necessary. Mr. Guzinski will look into other towns to see if they have a part-time planner who may be willing to work with Douglas, however sharing a planner might be a conflict of interest. A short term investment in an economic development planner/director was discussed.
5-Year Revenue Expenditure: Ms. Brouillette reviewed how this document was developed. Ms. Lovett stated that it has not been updated with the new expenses since the May 2015 Town Meeting. The Budget Variance FY16 included items that were deferred. The deferred items need to be included in the presentations. Ms. Lovett used a 5.41% increase for the school for FY16 to FY20. Everything non-school was increased by 3.5%. Restorations were made to some areas-Public Works, Technology, etc. The Committee feels they need to present how they looked at the data to the public. Ms. Brouillette asked Mr. Guzinski and Ms. Lovett to find out exactly how the data was developed.

2. Prepare for Presentations
The Committee feels they need to present options of how to meet the budget gaps. Mr. Guzinski does not feel there is any room in the budget to cut expenses without cutting services. The charge from the Board of Selectmen (BOS) is to develop a model for a 5-year sustainable budget. The charge was made after the override did not pass. Should the Strategic Budget Committee recommend that Douglas cannot have a sustainable budget and survive with the services they are providing? The Town is looking at an override again. Mr. Hughes suggested asking the townspeople at the presentations what their thoughts are.
Negative consequences to not resolving the budget shortfall were discussed, including increased School Choice out and increased BVT and Norfolk Aggie enrollments. Also discussed was how to objectively present the information to portray the serious problem, how to presented the serious recommendations and their implications and consequences without overwhelming the public with detail. It was decided to have a half-hour presentation of approximately ten slides with a half-hour for discussion and feedback.
Ms. Lovett suggested not presenting a list showing what will not happen if a vote is not achieved. Ms. Lovett suggested showing the Capital Plan nine years ago compared to the present. The core of the presentation has to be the facts. Highlight the slow incremental reduction and stretching of the dollars over the years, non-funding of the Capital Plan, and deferred maintenance. Present options: go for an override or cut services. Highlight long-term items: continue to work on issues with Chapter 70 and State Aid.
Ms. Holmes feels the Committee should identify numbers and a strategy of how to make an override last as long as possible. She suggested asking the Department of Revenue to help discuss this number. DOR made many cuts at the state level.
In order to best present the shortfall and how it will affect Douglas, Mr. Hughes suggested just showing the numbers. Inform the public that meeting the budget shortfall will involve a combination of cuts and loss of services. Ms. Lovett suggested presenting the problem as a revenue issue and focus on the revenue side. The numbers are irrefutable. Relate the Town’s situation to people’s home budgets.
September 15, 2015 at 7:00 PM will be the first presentation with department heads and the Finance Committee. Staff will also be invited. The second presentation on September 29, 2015 will be for the general public, with special invitations to the School Committee and BOS. After that, would talk about how the final presentation to BOS.
As a way to collect feedback, Ms. Keegan will do some research on quantitative surveys that have been done in other towns and will work with Ms. Lovett and Mr. Guzinski. Ms. Lovett can send the survey with the notification mailing for the November Town Meeting.
Ms. Holmes suggested adding an historical narrative of the history of Proposition 2.5, how it affects Douglas and how it affects other communities differently. She also suggested adding a history of what the Committee has been doing and will be doing going forward.
Mr. Guzinski will put Strategic Budget Committee items on the town’s website.
Ms. Brouillette offered to give the presentation on September 15, 2015.

3. Minutes: August 10, 2015
Mr. Hughes made a motion to approve the August 10, 2015 meeting minutes of the Strategic Budget Committee as amended. Ms. Holmes seconded the motion. Vote: Unanimous.

4. Old/New Business/Open Session
Old Business: There was no discussion.
New Business: There was no discussion.

5. Adjournment
Mr. Hughes made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 8:43 PM. Ms. Zetlan seconded the motion. Vote: Unanimous.

Respectfully submitted,

Mary Wright
Recording Secretary
Mary Wright
 
Posts: 481
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2012 8:56 pm

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