Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Recap - Joint Budget Subcommittee meeting - Apr 12, 2021

Quick Recap:
  • This meeting was asked for as a result of the Town Council budget subcommittee (Mar 17, 2021) seeing a preview of the School Committee budget and yet not having anyone to ask questions about it. So this meeting is scheduled and a couple of 'little' questions are asked but they don’t ask the 'real' questions.
  • The Schools do not include Davis Thayer in their budget; students will leave in June, items will be moved from it to Keller (and potentially elsewhere in the district) as it gets emptied and cleaned prior to getting declared surplus. Superintendent Ahern is hesitant to declare a date that may be premature as much work on the transition to Keller remains to be done. The School Committee is planned to vote to declare the building surplus during the transition process.
  • Minimal maintenance amounts for the Davis Thayer building are in the town side of the budget and the Town would be happy if the School District took care of the other remaining materials in the school to handle that final disposition (or surplus for desk, books, etc.) before the Town takes over.
  • We do find out that the Town budget will be released on Friday, April 16 with plenty of supporting material. It will reflect a slight increase in new growth revenue and in local receipts over the amounts previewed at the aforementioned budget meeting. There is no use of the debt stabilization funds to balance. There is a possibility of a proposed fiscal policy to set aside a percent of free cash for debt stabilization to help avoid future budget issues.
Unlike most meetings in this pandemic period, I took my notes when listening to the audio recording of the meeting that I missed. 
  • Chair Matt Kelly opens meeting, reads protocol statement
  • FY 2022 budget discussion opens with TA Hellen providing an overview
  • An outcome from the previous TC budget subcommittee meeting to ensure all three groups are aligned
  • town administrator’s recommended budget being released on Friday April1 16, historical and supporting data being released with it to provide something to read over the school break
  • Participating: Supt Sara Ahern, School Comm Chair Anne Bergen, Vice Chair Denise Spencer, also Tim Keenan, Jen D’Angelo school committee members
  • Participating in Chambers: FinCom George Conley, Councilors Mercer and Pellegri.
  • Town Councilor Melanie Hamblen on remote, FinCom member Nicole Corbosiero and Susan Dewsnap on remote
  •  Q  - FinCom member George Conley - from the American Rescue Plan as released by the MMA site, has that been allocated and included in this budget?
  • A - Hellen - no, guidance coming from Treasury in May, the funds themselves possibly will be available in a similar time frame. Apparently, we’ll have 3 years to spend then but there has not yet been a discussion on how and where we would. The money  can be used for infrastructure and broadband, water, sewer, roads, etc. It can not be used to set aside for a rainy day, or to fund pension obligations. There will be an appendix in the budget to show and account for the CARES Act funds received during the pandemic last year.
  • Q - councilor Melanie Hamblen - some folks complain about the training provided. Could we have a list of how many, what kind of training provided.
  • Kelly - good idea
  • Q - FinCom Susan Dewsnap - since we saw your preview of the budget has there been any significant changes on the revenue forecast?
  • A - Jamie Hellen - yes, a couple - one we did use the 10 year average as a guide for new growth which will come in at about $1.1M (which is up over the preview) and we also added about $200K to the expected local receipts (over the preview). The Governor’s revenue number is still in the budget, while the House and Senate did agree to an increase in local aid last week, we don't yet know how that will play out. So that potential increase is not in our budget being released this week.
  • Q - FinCom Susan Dewsnap - we did have a small amount of budget stabilization funds, does the budget include any of that?
  • A - Jamie Hellen - no, it does not.
  • Q - Council Chair Tom Mercer - how are you carrying Davis Thayer in your budget? While you have indicated closing it, you java not yet declared it surplus so something must be keeping it active.
  • A - Supt Sara Ahern - yes, the school committee did vote to close Dave Thayer, there is a transition plan underway to account for the transition of the students to Keller. Most of the budget is for personnel and we have realized a savings of about $770K which is being reinvested within the district. As the school is still being used right now, she has not yet asked the School Committee to vote on it being declared surplus but anticipates that would be as part of the transition process.
  • A - Jamie adds, the town facilities budget will show minimal amounts for water and utilities in anticipation of it not being used. Also several of the buildings, Senior Center, Library, etc. which had been closed or mostly so will also reflect an increase in the facilities budget as those building return to use under the reopening process.
  • Q - Councilor Pellegri - why would we wait until the end of the year?
  • A - Supt Ahern - I don’t want to put out too premature a date when the facility is still being used. Once school is out the materials etc. will need to be moved to Keller or elsewhere within the district. We’ll also have some clean up to do as not everything will be going. We will move as quickly as we can, so it may be sooner than the end of the year.
  • Q - Councilor Pellegri - Jamie, any idea of the cost from June through the end of the year?
  • A - Jamie - specifically in the detail Mike D’Angelo has in the budget, don’t have that at finger tips but can share. It is accounted for in the budget. He would like for Miriam to handle most of the school furniture surplus process as she is more familiar with those items than the Town would. Kids get out June 22. It will take some weeks or months to move and clean out.  
  • Motion to adjourn

note, others may have participated but were either not acknowledged during the audio or spoke during the audio recording and hence missed in these notes.

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