March 28, 2016 Finance Committee meeting

March 28, 2016 Finance Committee meeting

Postby Mary Wright » Mon Feb 13, 2017 7:53 pm

MONDAY, MARCH 28, 2016

A meeting of the Finance Committee (Fin Com) was held on Monday, March 28, 2016 at the Municipal Center. Ms. Holmes called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.

PRESENT: Pamela Holmes (Chairman), Brett Argall, Howard D’Amico, Carol Gogolinski, Ryan Hogan (Vice Chairman), Michael Hutnak, Jerome Kocur, Cynthia Shurick
NON-VOTING: Michael Guzinski (Town Administrator), Jeanne Lovett (Finance Director)

7:00 PM Assessors
Beth McKay, Principal Assessor, stated that the budget is exactly the same as last year, except that they had to put money in ($46,000) for a revaluation due in 2018. Free Cash is being used as the funding source for those funds this year. That contract goes out to bid every three years.
Ms. McKay described her duties and responsibilities. Cheryl Vaidya, Treasurer/Collector was also at the table. Ms. Lovett stated that the Assessor’s Office has been instrumental in the MUNIS conversion. Repairs and Maintenance is for renewable contractual services.
Ms. McKay explained how revaluations are run and how homes and property are valued.
7:09 PM Treasurer/Collector
Cheryl Vaidya reviewed the Treasurer, Tax Taking and Tax Title reports. She reviewed her office’s duties and responsibilities. Repairs and Maintenance is seeing the largest increase due to the MUNIS software and conversion.
The Legal Auction line has been reduced by $2,000 and Other Services by $5,500.
Ms. Vaidya explained that the Legal Auction line was for another auction for tax title foreclosure properties. However there are currently only five properties in foreclosure and another two in land court, therefore it would not cost the full $10,000 to hold the auction. Also, the department is too busy with the MUNIS conversion to orchestrate an auction in FY16 or FY17.
Ms. Vaidya and Ms. Lovett spoke about the progress of the MUNIS conversion. The yearly fee for MUNIS support and hosting is $13,356. A discussion was held.
Ms. Vaidya continued to present her budget line items. She explained the Tax Taking process.
7:30 PM Water/Sewer (W/S)
Bob Sullivan, W/S Systems Manager joined the meeting. He stated that his department is fully staffed. He first presented the Sewer budget. Douglas has approximately 11,000 W/S connections. They have expanded the water to the Uxbridge line. Bob Josey, W/S Chairman also joined the meeting.
A discussion was held regarding water limits at Whitin Reservoir, the draft permit and mineral limits.
Mr. Sullivan reviewed Salaries. They have started a W/S rate study. He discussed water meter replacements. W/S also has a MUNIS service fee. Most of his line items are the same.
He next reviewed Debt. All of the water debt has come off. There is still sewer debt to collect. Painting of the Church Street water tower will be paid half from the W/S enterprise fund and half from the Town.
He next presented the Water Dept. budget. Discussions were held regarding the effects on water/sewer of the North Village project and other housing projects in town. Capital projects include: water meter replacement, finish the loop on Northeast Main, and water main replacements. The water booster station is not yet completed. Mr. Sullivan hopes it will go out to bid before the end of April and be completed by the end of the summer.
8:00 PM Blackstone Valley Tech (BVT)
Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, Superintendent of BVT and John Lavin, Douglas’ representative on the BVT Regional School Committee (BVTRSC) joined the meeting. Dr. Fitzpatrick presented the budget in sequence. The BVTRSC negotiated a low premium, high deductible health plan. The Capital Equipment Revenues and Assets are coming from new competitive grants filed with the State, and Dr. Fitzpatrick is working on additional proposals. The parking and athletic fees are being doubled.
Dr. Fitzpatrick stated that BVT has committed $500,000 from Excess and Efficiency from the FY17 budget (equivalent to Free Cash) and $250,000 from Reserves. The Dept. of Revenue’s (DOR) certified number is around $800,000. BVT is eligible for the maximum reimbursement from the State of $619,000 for roof repair. A discussion was held.
A discussion was held regarding how it was decided to increase the budget by 3%.
Kevin Morse, 93 West Street and Vice Chair of the Board of Selectmen (BOS) stated that Douglas schools cut 12 FTE’s last year. It is difficult for him as a taxpayer and elected official to have a vocational school that does an excellent job only cutting 3
Dr. Fitzpatrick continued reviewing the Green Sheet. Additional Assessment is added into the budget when there is a difference between the total spending and meeting all the needs of the 3% budget. Mr. Hogan asked why Douglas’ assessment has increased by almost 6%, when there are no additional students enrolled above last year and the BVT budget increase is 3%. Dr. Fitzpatrick explained that the State level-funded Chapter 70 and increased the absolute minimum to $21,000.
Dr. Fitzpatrick provided a placement report of Douglas BVT graduates in 2014. Mr. D’Amico does not feel that BVT is among the 50 best high schools for college placement. He is concerned that BVT drains the best academic students from the local public schools. He asked Dr. Fitzpatrick if BVT is a vocational school or a preparatory school. Dr. Fitzpatrick replied that the students often change career paths while at BVT. BVT does not intend to compete with the local public schools. In many cases, the BVT students connect to industry that helps to subsidize a college education. BVT is focused as a vocational technical school. Industry expects BVT to recruit quality candidates and industry recruits from BVT.
Mr. D’Amico is concerned that students who are in need of vocational training cannot attend BVT because students who are better academically are chosen instead. Dr. Fitzpatrick stated that students compete for admittance on a State approved process. An emphasis on grades has been reduced. Mr. D’Amico asked for the placements for all 13 participating towns.
Ms. Gogolinski asked if there are statistics for BVT graduates that are still working in their trade five years after graduation. Dr. Fitzpatrick stated that they are working on improving the data. All high school students in Massachusetts have to pass a high stakes academic test.
Regarding the five Douglas residents in the practical nursing program for which the Town is assessed, Dr. Fitzpatrick stated that it is an approved Chapter 74 program. The tuition is capped at the rate of a community college tuition. Douglas pays $8,828 per pupil. BVT added the program to add an additional service to the towns. Ms. Holmes would like to see a cap on that program. Mr. Argall would like to see where it says that the costs can be charged back to the town. Dr. Fitzpatrick will pursue a clarification from the DESE as to whether or not BVT is able to charge the students tuition that would cover the full costs of the program and whether or not charging and assessment to the towns is optional.
Ms. Holmes would like to understand how the post-secondary enrollment reporting is done. She feels that the post-secondary students are reported in the total enrollment number for students in grades 9-12. Dr. Fitzpatrick stated that BVT reports the way that the State dictates it should be done.
Dr. Fitzpatrick presented the State approved admission plan, which was changed in October 2015 to reduce the emphasis on grades. He stated that BVT’s mission is to provide quality candidates directly and indirectly to the workforce.
Mr. Lavin said that he works periodically with Mr. Guzinski to check in with the state of the Town. He represents the district. Dr. Fitzpatrick’s observation is that BVTRSC members have routinely brought information and observations regarding their towns to the committee. Mr. Argall recommended that Mr. Lavin join the Finance Committee at a meeting during pre-budget season. Mr. Lavin invited members of the Finance Committee to a BVTRSC meeting.
Dr. Fitzpatrick said that BVT is obligated to take Special Education students. Several years ago he created a tuition-based program to deal with more elaborate special needs situations, however the school systems stopped funding it. Ms. Gogolinski argued that BVT’s budget will not be hit with the costs of out placements for special needs students. Dr. Fitzpatrick agreed.
Ms. Holmes asked Dr. Fitzpatrick to come back to the Committee after budget season with answers to questions the Committee has sent to him. Mr. D’Amico suggested that Mr. Lavin have advertised “office hours” to gather information from the townspeople to relay back to the BVTRSC. Dr. Fitzpatrick invited the Finance Committee to tour BVT.

Mr. Guzinski stated that the BOS and School Committee approved and signed resolutions to oppose the governor’s initiative to remove the charter school cap and ask the legislature to fully fund the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission. The BOS and School Committee did not want the cap removed until the foundation budget formula had changed. Mr. Guzinski supports these resolutions. Ms. Holmes would like the charter cap resolution to mention fully funding the resolutions of the Foundation Budget Review Commission. Mr. Hogan argued in favor of charter schools, competition and school choice. A discussion was held.
Mr. D’Amico made a motion to approve and sign the resolution for the full funding of the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission. Mr. Argall seconded the motion. Vote: Unanimous.
Mr. Argall made a motion to approve and sign the resolution to oppose the lifting of the charter school cap. Ms. Shurick seconded the motion. Vote: Aye-5, No-3.

Mr. Guzinski reviewed the Special Town Meeting (STM) and Annual Town Meeting (ATM) warrants. Ms. Shurick asked for a breakdown of what has been spent so far in the Snow & Ice Account. Ms. Lovett will email a detailed budget. She stated that it costs $67/ton for salt and there were approximately 20 snow and ice events.
Article 3 on the STM is looking to consider use of up to $150,000 towards finishing the Municipal Center window project.
Mr. Guzinski reviewed the 12 articles on the ATM warrant. The BOS did vote to approve putting a Proposition 2.5 override on the ballot for $1.7 million; $1.5 million will be for the Douglas Public Schools personnel and expenses and $200,000 for extraordinary building maintenance.
Mr. Guzinski reviewed the items on Article 10, the Capital Improvement Plan.
Mr. Guzinski will have the motions for the next meeting.
A discussion was held regarding the funding for capital items for departments with enterprise funds.
Article 11 is a debt exclusion article for $704,000 for the purchase of a fire rescue pumper and a catch basin truck.
Article 12 was received by petition to replace the fire doors ($1,500) at the Simon Fairfield Public Library.
Ms. Lovett distributed and discussed a revenue spreadsheet and draft budget (out of balance by $110,000). Discussions were held regarding the Proposition 2.5 override analysis (prepared prior to the BOS vote), the property revaluation and the tax rate. Ms. Lovett will email the Committee the following items: the debt for the $704,000 exclusion, the sheet the School Dept. passed out, the history of Free Cash, the detailed Snow and Ice budget/events, and the petition for Article 12.

Approval of the March 14, 2016 Finance Committee meeting minutes was deferred to the next meeting.

Ms. Holmes presented some vouchers to sign.
Ms. Shurick stated that, upon reviewing documents presented by Dr. Fitzpatrick this evening, the school does have some control over who gets accepted to BVT. She wondered if anything is done at the Douglas schools to choose who goes to BVT. Mr. Guzinski stated that the question is whether or not BVT is focusing on their core mission not whether or not the graduates are successful. A discussion was held.
The Committee decided to invite the School Committee back for the April 4, 2016 meeting. Mr. Guzinski will ask the BOS to attend the April 11, 2016 meeting to talk about the new economic development position. Mr. Hogan asked Mr. Guzinski to ask the administrator of the Town of Millbury about their advertised Town Planner position.

Mr. D’Amico made a motion at 10:34 PM to adjourn. Mr. Hutnak seconded the motion. Vote: Unanimous.

Respectfully submitted,

Mary Wright
Recording Secretary
Mary Wright
Posts: 594
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2012 8:56 pm

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