October 20, 2015 Strategic Budget meeting

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October 20, 2015 Strategic Budget meeting

Postby Mary Wright » Sun Apr 24, 2016 2:36 pm


A joint meeting of the Strategic Budget Committee and Board of Selectmen (BOS) was held on Tuesday, October 20, 2015 in the Municipal Center. Ms. Brouillette called the meeting to order at 7:12 PM.

PRESENT: Paula Brouillette (Chair), Dave Cortese (Vice Chair and member of BOS), Pamela Holmes, Sherry Zetlan
NON-VOTING: Michael Guzinski (Town Administrator), Jeanne Lovett (Finance Director), Cortney Keegan (School Business and Operations Manager), Norm Yvon (Superintendent of Schools)
ABSENT: Scott Yacino (Alternate-Excused)
BOARD OF SELECTMEN: Mike Hughes (Chairman), Tim Bonin, David Cortese, Hal Davis, Kevin Morse

1. Meeting with Strategic Budget Committee
Ms. Brouillette gave an overview of the work the committee has done. They worked on developing a five-year budget. They looked at the budget history over the past five years. They made some assumptions going forward. They found a $2 million deficit going into next year with the potential for a $5 million budget gap going five years forward, just keeping services level. It is primarily a revenue problem. Fifty percent of their revenues have grown less than 1% per year since 2009. Based on conversations with Rep. McKenna and Sen. Fattman’s Chief of Staff, State revenues will continue to increase less than 1% for the next five years.
At a local level, the cuts have been incremental and there is little left to cut. There have not yet been major departmental shut-downs. There is no provision for funds for the Capital Plan in this $5 million deficit.
One short-term goal is to continue put pressure at the State level to understand their lessening of support for local education.
A long-term goal is to leverage the loss in State revenues to get some assistance with infrastructure funding for economic development. Ms. Brouillette also suggested that the charge of the Strategic Budget Committee be continued in order to plan for the following five years. She feels membership on the committee should be expanded.
Ms. Brouillette urged the BOS and the Town to get serious about economic development and develop a plan with deliverable goals. Infrastructure is the biggest obstacle. Developers do not want raw land.
Other short-term goals would be to increase local fees and increase the tax levy (Proposition 2.5 override). The next step in looking at this plan would be how to implement the recommendations.
Mr. Morse has reservations regarding a Proposition 2.5 override, i.e. putting additional funds into broken budgets. Raising the tax rate and losing services would decrease some of Douglas’ appeal. Mr. Morse feels that economic development has been met with much resistance from the public. Worcester Business Development Corp. (WBDC) has not come back with a plan and he does not feel they are a good fit for Douglas. Mr. Morse suggested spending money for a professional grant writer. He agrees the Strategic Budget Committee needs to stay in place. He feels all committees should work together as a group and bring in citizens at large.
Ms. Brouillette feels going forward, the Town needs a short-term plan with deliverables. Expenses have been primarily due to increases in health insurance costs and unfunded State mandates at the school level. She feels an override would define what type of Town Douglas chooses to be, and the public would need to decide whether or not to fund themselves. A discussion was held including business vs. government budgets, taxes, services, and a history of Douglas.
Brett Argall, 3 Royal Crest Drive and a member of the Finance Committee, urged a multi-pronged approach to the budget solution.
Jim Saviano, 124 Wallis Street feels a different type of resident is attracted to a Town with outstanding services vs. low taxes. Mr. Saviano would like to see a comparison of Douglas’ tax rate vs. other towns in the Blackstone Valley. Mr. Guzinski stated that Douglas is in the middle of that range for the towns in this vicinity.
Mr. Saviano said that back in the 70’s, a study was done by the Planning Board that showed that every family that moved into Douglas cost the Town more in services than they paid to the Town. He suggested performing a survey of the community. He said that the Town needs to communicate to the community more effectively about the problem and the possible solutions.
Mitch Cohen, 25 Marilyn Drive is in favor of economic development, but does not feel it is realistic that it will solve the $5 million deficit on its own. He stated that businesses will not want to establish themselves in towns that decimate their services. It would be beneficial for the BOS to ask the Town Administrator and Finance Director to begin the process to figure out what the budget and services will look like next year with no override and no increases in revenues and disseminate that information now. Mr. Morse is open to suggestions as to how to do that. He stated that multiple attempts are made to inform the public. A discussion was held.
Ms. Brouillette suggested forming a committee to create and present meaningful data for the public in a State of the Town address.
Kelli Grady, 55 Southeast Main feels there is a big difference between hearing about a Proposition 2.5 override and hearing that the library is going to close and/or parents need to pay for school transportation. She likes the idea of State of the Town.
Jillian Carneiro, 72 Riedell Road, feels every meeting goes in circles. A Proposition 2.5 override would need everyone on board, and it has been very difficult to get people involved in fundraising for extracurricular activities. The community needs to work together. Mr. Guzinski stated that, from his standpoint, the school and Town have worked well together for years to work on the budget problem.

2. Adjournment
The Strategic Budget Committee was adjourned at 8:25 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Mary Wright
Recording Secretary
Mary Wright
Posts: 586
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2012 8:56 pm

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