Present: Alvarez (Chairman), Clark, Dolan, Mazzucco, Yonkers
Also present: First Selectmen Pemberton, Selectman, Selectman Karvelis, Finance Director Gniadek, Treasurer O’Donnell, Tax Collector Moisio, Assessor Ford, Redding Board of Education members Gaspar, Sobel & Ajavananda, School Superintendent Josefsberg, School Finance Director Sullivan, eight member of the public. In addition, a representative of the Redding Pilot and two videographers were present.
Chairman Alvarez called the January 27, 2014 meeting to order at 7:30 pm.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Motion: move to approve the minutes of the Special Meeting and Regular meeting on December 16, 2013 be approved as submitted. Yonkers, Mazzucco. Approved. Unanimous.
TAX COLLECTOR’S REPORT
Tax Collector Moisio reported that, as of today, 87% of the budgeted tax revenue was collected. She noted that February 3, 2014 is the deadline for payment of taxes and anticipates more payments will be received this week.
Dr. Yonkers asked for a status of delinquencies for last year. Mrs. Moisio noted there is about $200,000 in delinquencies, plus the Georgetown Land Development delinquency of $2,700,000. A discussion of the Georgetown project, their current status, the assessment of the property, and future followed. Highlights include:
- The Town of Redding has a lien on the property.
- Property Contamination Report on the property will be requested.
- DECD recently approved $2,000,000 in grant money for river wall work, one condition is that the purchaser must show access to investment sufficient to begin Phase 1 up to $60 million and that the applicant agrees to abide by the Master Plan.
- The current assessment of the property is on an “as is” state.
- Current applicant would want to develop the West Pond area of the property first; this is the “cleanest” area.
- Major contaminated area is west of Route 107, adjacent to the Wastewater Treatment Facility.
- Suggestion was made to hold a meeting with Town Counsel to review and discuss the Town of Redding’s options for the property and unpaid taxes.
FINANCE DIRECTOR REPORT
Mr. Gniadek highlighted his written report.
- Revenue: FEMA reimbursement for Storm Sandy, category A, debris removal, is still outstanding.
- Expenses: the “Salt” account is currently about $44,000 over budget due to the winter storms.
- Budget: The 2014-15 budget was discussed at the Board of Selectmen Budget Workshop and regular meeting. At this point, the health insurance premium is not finalized, the pension fund contribution is not finalized, the WPCC budget is an open item for discussion, and the SRO/Youth Officer issue is an open item for discussion.
Discussion of the School Resource Officer & Youth Officer issue followed. The Board of Finance discussed the concept of moving the costs for the two positions from the Police Department to the School Budget. The SRO & Youth Officer positions are dedicated to the school for the days that the schools are in session. The Board of Finance considered transferring an allocation for the costs for the time school is in session (180 days of the year) to the School Budget.
First Selectmen Pemberton announced that the Redding Board of Education and school administrators have been invited to make a presentation at the February 3, 2014 Board of Selectmen meeting. A review of security issues and the role of the two officers in the school will be presented. At the January 13, 2014 Board of Selectmen, Mr. Gniadek reported that, based on the number of school days, the budget for the two officers is approximately $180,0000 for their work as School Resource Officer and Youth Officer.
Responding to a question about available grant money, Mrs. Sullivan reported that the Security Grant money was for hardware, not labor. All eligible expenses for hardware have been reimbursed and returned to the Town. She will continue to apply for grant funds as they become available.
Treasurer O’Donnell submitted a written report of the Town’s cash balances. The cash balance in the General Fund was $16,743,644. The cash balance in the Capital Nonrecurring is $999,571.
Regarding the eCD Market, Mrs. O’Donnell reported additional banks are being added to the eCD market platform and the system is being upgraded to improve the purchase function.
Town banking relationship: The subcommittee (Mr. Gniadek, Mrs. Moisio and Mrs. O’Donnell) concluded their discussions on the Town’s banking relationship and are recommending the change from Union Savings Bank to Webster Bank. The change will not result in cost savings, but should bring a more robust menu of services. The change will happen in the spring since it will take some time to implement and it is important to do it in between the tax collection periods. Webster Bank expects a compensating balance to be about $1,500,000, which is similar to what Union Savings Bank’s increase was. Adding twice a week Dunbar service is being added to te list of services covered by the compensating balance.
Mr. Mazzucco inquired whether Mrs. O’Donnell had investigated one-year certificates of deposit. Mrs. O’Donnell replied that she had, and that they carry a higher rate, but she wanted to keep the terms short, as she expected interest rates to rise. Mr. Mazzucco stressed the importance of laddering the investments and including 12-month certificates.
ELDERLY TAX BENEFIT
Mrs. Moisio reported on the findings and recommendations of the subcommittee. Serving on the subcommittee were Mr. Alvarez, Mr. Dolan, Assessor Ford and Mrs. Moisio.
The Subcommittee members were in agreement that the Town Benefit is the only benefit seniors receive in Redding as opposed to Senior Housing, Tax Freeze programs and deferred tax program, among others that are available in many other municipalities. The Town Benefit was established in the early 1970’s with the intent of assisting seniors to remain in their own homes.
The recommendation includes the following:
1. Date of Application: change the date of application from February 1 to January 1, and the final date for application changed from May 15 to April 15. Proof of eligibility will be required with the original application and with each renewal. With this change, sufficient time is given to the Board of Finance to determine a more accurate mill rate.
2. Eligibility age: the eligibility age would change from age 65 to age 67, following the Social Security guidelines. Those currently receiving the benefit will be grandfathered into the program but will be required to reapply on their next designated year.
The age increase will be phased in with those 65 eligible to apply this year for the 2013 Grand List; age 66 for the 2014 Grand List; and age 67 for the 2014 Grand List.
3. Residency Requirement: the residency requirement will change from three years to five years. Residence of a minimum of 183 days remains in place and this must be the applicants primary place of residency
4. Reapplication: Seniors, once approved, will be required to reapply for the benefit every other year, matching the year of their birth with the odd or even year of reapplication.
The Tax Collector’s Office will handle the processing of the Town Benefit application and reapplication.
Mrs. Moisio stated that her office is diligent in checking and removing tax payers from the Town Benefit if they do not meet the current criteria. On July 1, 2013, there were 713 taxpayers on the benefit list, that number has been reduced to 687.Changes to ownership and residency is the reason for most of the deletions. The current year Town Benefit is $2,438. This is derived at by using the average value of property, time 20%, times the mill rate. Mrs. Moisio noted that the 2011 benefit totaled $1,745,480, and the benefit for 2012 was $1,683,000.
Mr. Alvarez reviewed comments made by Mr. DeSalvo who could not be at the meeting. Mr. DeSalvo was in agreement with the recommendations, but thought the residency requirement should be ten years.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Finance recommend to the Board of Selectmen the change to the Elderly Tax Benefit Ordnance with the adoption of the four recommendations as reported and recommended by the subcommittee appointed to study the issue. Mazzucco. Yonkers. Approved. Unanimous.
The suggestion was made to change the title of the ordinance from Elderly Tax Benefit to Senior Tax Benefit.
DISCUSSION AND ACTION ON PA 13-60
Public Act 13-60 is an act concerning the consolidation of non-educational services. The Act allows the Board of Finance to review the non-education operating expenses within the board of education budget with the intent of making spending recommendations that may consolidate non-educational services and realize financial efficiencies. It was noted that most school utilities (gas, diesel fuel, electricity) are purchased through a consortium which the Town also participates in.
Several areas of the Redding Board of Education draft budget proposal were discussed.
- Additional custodial position: Mrs. Sullivan noted that when the carpeting in the schools was removed and tile flooring installed, the amount of cleaning required increased. The increase in custodial help is a 0.5 FTE (full time equivalent position) at each school.
- Water testing: this state-requirement must be done monthly and quarterly.
- Police coverage: this is for afterschool activities and events and is for directing traffic.
- Field maintenance: currently the mowing is done by a school custodian. Park & Recreation takes care of the fertilization and pest control.
- SRO/Youth Officer: Dr. Josefsberg stated that he feels strongly that the SRO/Youth Officers are policing functions that take place on school grounds, and that the cost is properly placed in the Police Department budget. Mr. Mazzucco noted that Police Chief Fuchs, at the Board of Selectman’s budget workshop, emphasized the educational component of the job the SRO/Youth Officers are doing and suggested the cost for their presence in the schools should be in the education budget. Board of Education member Sara Sobel noted that the positions are police employees, not employees of the schools. Following further discussion, the following motion was made.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Finance allocate, at a method to be determined at the next meeting, the cost of the school Resource Officer and Youth Officer dedicated to the schools according to their time present in the school versus the time available for other police functions. Mazzucco, Yonkers. Approved. 4-1. Mr. Dolan voted against the motion.
Mrs. Pemberton noted a presentation and discussion of the SRO and Youth Officer in the schools is scheduled for the Board of Selectmen meeting on February 3, 2014. The meeting will be videotaped so the Board of Finance members who cannot attend can view the meeting at their leisure. She will also provide a report for the next Board of Finance meeting.
Rich Regan, Chairman of the Water Pollution Control Commission, recapped the proposed operating budget for fiscal 2014-15. His estimate is that the expenses will be greater than revenue by $240,000. The current revenue stream is down, primarily due to the closure of the Georgetown Saloon and greater water usage efficiencies at Meadow Ridge. He also estimates a decrease in expenses due to the newly installed membranes, reduction in operating expense and chemical usage.
Mr. Gniadek reviewed the options to cover the WPCC costs:
- Continuation of loans on an “as needed” basis;
- Inclusion of the revenue & expenses in the town operations as a separate department
- Budget the deficit as a line item.
Mr. Alvarez suggested the “delta” payment of $240,000 be included in the budget as a line item this year.
Dr. Yonkers asked for Town Counsel to weigh in on the issue. She also questioned when the operation of the plant was put out to bid. Mr. Regan noted that the current contract is in year 6 of a 10-year contract, and that two years ago a study was done by WMC Engineers on the plant and operations, and they found the operations service cost to be appropriate.
James Miller, a member of the WPCC, provided information regarding the potential for the Plant to accept septage from private haulers as requested by Dr. Yonkers at a previous meeting. Mr. Miller reported that in addition to State Permitting issues, there are costs to retro-fit the plant. Additional engineering study, equipment for screening and holding tanks would be needed to accept sewage from private haulers. The needed additional space is not available at the plant site. The revenue stream is uncertain. Haulers would be interested only in long term contracts. The engineering costs, capital costs and additional land would be costly, and the process could take a considerable amount of time.
BOARD MEMBER REPORTS
Mr. Alvarez announced that a Freedom of Information Workshop was scheduled for February 11, 2014 at 6 pm.
Rosalind Kopfstein, Diamond Hill Road and Chairman of the Commission on Aging: Mrs. Kopfstein noted that Connecticut has the 6th oldest population in the country. She reminded the board that for every senior that sells their home and moves, the replacement is most likely a family with children for the school system. Mrs. Kopfstein commented on her concerns with the recommendations regarding the Elderly Tax Benefit. She noted that the reapplication process for the elderly residents may be a burden, and she suggested a less frequently reapplication time period. She added that often the senior is not the one paying the bills, but the family is handling the financial issues.
James Miller, Middlebrook Pond Road: Mr. Miller asked Tax Collector Moisio how the Tax Office monitored whether the resident actually resided in their home for 183 days and if reminders to reapply would be sent out. Mrs. Moisio responded that there is follow up, including checking for returned mailings, the motor vehicle registration changes, etc. She added that reminders will be included with all tax bill mailings. Mr. Miller asked Mrs. Sullivan if the schools would apply for future security grants. Mrs. Sullivan responded that all available grants are monitored.
Jeanne Wendschuh, Deer Spring Road: Mrs. Wendschuh questioned the allocation of the SRO/Youth Officer to the school budget, because regardless of the where it is allocated, the taxpayers have to pay for it. She felt it would make the school costs less comparable to other school systems if the security coverage was included in the operating budget. She did not see any benefit from continuing the discussion. She also suggested that using reimbursement credits to offset expenses should not be done as it changes the actual cost of operation. She asked that separate credit account be used to reflect those credits. Mr. Gniadek indicated that the current procedure has been approved by the auditors.
Sara Sobel, Redding Board of Education member: Mrs. Sobel expressed her disappointment of the action taken on the SRO/Youth Officer cost without alerting the Board of Education that this would be a consideration at the meeting. She noted that the agenda did not contain an action item on the issue, only a discussion of Public Act 13-60 and recommendations. Mr. Mazzucco noted that this was a regular meeting and the item has been an ongoing discussion at the meetings, and he is looking for proper accounting of expenses. Mr. Dolan noted that no action was really taken, only a request for more information on the allocation of costs.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Finance recess to executive session for evaluation of an expiring contract. Mazzucco, Clark. Approved. Unanimous.
Mrs. Pemberton, Mr. Karvelis, Mrs. O’Donnell and Mrs. Moisio were invited to be present.
The meeting recessed at 9:58 pm.
The Chairman reconvened the meeting in public session at 10:40 pm
No further action was taken.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Finance meeting be adjourned. Dolan, Mazzucco. Approved. Unanimous.
The meeting adjourned at 10:40 pm
Mary Maday, Recording Secretary