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Minutes of Board of Finance, 03/23/2015

AGENDA: Board of Finance

RECEIVED 03/25/2015 9:23am
Michele R. Grande – Redding Town Clerk

Minutes

Present: Alvarez (Chairman), Clark, DeSalvo, Dolan, Mazzucco, Yonkers

Also present: First Selectman Pemberton, Selectmen Karvelis & Thompson, Finance Director Gniadek, Treasurer O’Donnell, Tax Collector Moisio, more than 50 members of the public, representatives of the Redding Pilot & Hello Redding, and the videographers

Chairman Alvarez called the meeting on March 23, 2015 to order at 7:33 pm in the Redding Town Hall.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

Motion: move that the Redding Board of Finance approve the minutes of the February 23, 2015 meeting as submitted.  Yonkers, Clark. Approved. 5-0-1. Mr. DeSalvo abstained.

Motion: move that the Redding Board of Finance approve the minutes of the March 12, 2015 Public Hearing as submitted.  Mazzucco, DeSalvo.  Approved. 5-0-1 Dr. Yonkers abstained.

DISCUSSION AND ACTION ON FY 2015-16 BUDGET

Board of Education Operating Budget

Dr. Yonkers commented and is thankful for the improvements in programming for students over the past five or six years when her children were in school, including the increase in Kindergarten time, World Language and enrichment programs.  However, she added that the continuous increase in cost per child, with the declining enrollment is troubling. She hopes there will be no disparaging comments made about the quality of education in Redding schools.

Mr. Mazzucco echoed the comments made by Dr. Yonkers, noting that programming has been expanded and nothing has been taken away. He pointed out that home prices & property taxes affect the decisions of homebuyers, in addition to the quality of the schools which, in Redding, is excellent. He expressed concern that increases in the per pupil spending and the student-teacher ratio which declined over recent years to 11.4 to 1.  Thus, he finds it difficult to support the current Redding Board of Education proposed budget.

Mr. Dolan commented that there is a perception of what a further reduction could mean to housing values, and he finds the requested budget reasonable.

Mr. Alvarez stated that the Health Insurance Reserve in the current year was overfunded by about $150,000, and he anticipates a return of funds of approximately $200,000 to the Town, so that even the current approved budget has about $350,000 excess funds appropriated..  That coupled with a reduction of 60 students for next year, should result in a lower budget request. He also noted that administration costs have increased $100,000 since 2011. He noted that the proposed budget results in an increase of about $1,500 per pupil spending.

Ms. Clark commented that the number of students is shrinking, but the space being used is not shrinking. She also commented on the large increase in Special Education costs, questioned how the decisions were made, and asked for more information on those costs.

Mr. DeSalvo expressed concern that the teaching staff is not reducing at the same pace as the student decline.

Mrs. Ajavananda, Chairman of the Redding Board of Education, addressed these concerns. She noted that there is no unused space in the schools, and the entire school population could not fit into one of the buildings within the next ten years.  Both buildings are in need of repair and improvement to serve the needs of the children and staff. She added that the Board will work with the Town officials should space in either building become available for alternate uses.

Mrs. Ajavananda noted that the Kindergarten program has been changed to a full 5-day program, resulting in some savings in transportation, and bring the budget request from 0.81% down to 0.69%.

Special Education costs were discussed.  There are two new students entering the system with intensive needs and one outplaced student.  The Center for Children with Special Needs has been contracted with to provide services for the children and provide training for the staff. The cost for the CCSN is offset with a reduction of one staff person.

The MBR (Minimum Budget Requirement) requirement was also discussed. Business Director Peggy Sullivan will have more specific information on that requirement after the Region 9 Board of Education finalizes their budget on March 26, 2015. Mr. Mazzucco noted that last year the Board of Finance and Board of Education reached an understanding that budgets at the MBR level were too high and thus unsustainable. The purpose of the MBR Committee was to determine how to deal with the requirements of the MBR law. He expressed disappointment in light of this, that the Board of Education was proposing a budget well above the MBR level.

The meeting was opened to public comment.

Jeff Fligelman, Pocahontas Road:  Mr. Fligelman commented on what could result if the Town fails to invest in the schools and the potential loss in housing values.  He noted taxes have doubled since 1988, but the cost of everything has also doubled since then.

Further discussion by Board of Finance members continued.

Motion: move that the Redding Board of Finance accept the Redding Board of Education proposed budget as presented. Dolan, DeSalvo.  Motion failed 2-4.  Voting for: Dolan, DeSalvo. Voting against: Alvarez, Mazzucco, Clark, Yonkers.

Motion: move that the Redding Board of Finance recommend that the Redding Board of Education consider a budget no higher than the MBR level for the 2015-16 level for the 2015-16 Fiscal Year. Mazzucco, Yonkers. Motion approved. 4-2. Voting For:  Alvarez, Mazzucco, Clark, Yonkers; Voting against:  Dolan, DeSalvo.

Redding Board of Education Capital Request

Motion: move that the Redding Board of Finance approve the Redding Board of Education Capital Requests for $1,950,071, to be funded by short term borrowing pending long term financing, and send the request to the Board of Selectmen for a machine vote referendum on the same day as the budget referendum. DeSalvo, Dolan.

Discussion followed.

Mr. Mazzucco expressed his concern that it was premature to consider some of the projects since the long term use of the facilities has not been determined. He stated he was willing to support the capital improvements except for the HVAC design work of about $150,000 and eventual installation, for more than $3,000,000, because the work is highly customized and will likely change if the building use is repurposed in any way. Mrs. Ajavananda responded that both buildings will be needed for the next ten years and many of the repairs are a safety concern.  First Selectman Pemberton noted that there have been discussions of potential use of portions of either building should space become available, but the improvements would be needed.  The buildings are Town assets and should be maintained. Mr. Mazzucco suggested that the HVAC design work be deferred.

The Board of Education will determine if the capital items will be voted on individually or as a package.

VOTE ON MOTION on the table

Motion approved. 5-1. Mr. Mazzucco voted against the motion.

Board of Selectmen Operating Budget

The cost for the temporary Police Communication Tower followed.  The additional cost is the result of actions taken by the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Commission.

Mr. Mazzucco suggested the cost of the SRO (School Resource Officer) and SSO (School Safety Officer) should be a part of the school budget rather than the Town budget, since police costs for Park & Recreation, and even school dances & events are included in their respective budgets.  In addition, the security staff at Joel Barlow High School is included in the Region 9 budget.  He suggested that the Town auditor be consulted on this issue for what is the best practice.

Motion: move that the Redding Board of Finance approve the Board of Selectmen operating budget for fiscal 2015-16 for $14,160,418 and send the request to the Board of Selectmen for a machine vote referendum. DeSalvo, Mazzucco.  Approved. Unanimous.

Board of Selectman Capital Request

Three capital requests were submitted:  RCC Field #2 conversion to a turf field, $660,000; Shelter at RCC, $47,000, and the Police Communication Temporary tower, $123,000; for a total of $830,000.  Mrs. Pemberton suggested that the Board of Selectmen will likely decide that these three issues would be voted on individually.  The remaining balance in the STEAP grant from the State will expire at the end of the year if the RCC Field #2 project is not moved forward.

Motion: move that the Redding Board of Finance approve the Capital Requests of the Board of Selectmen for a total of $830,000 to be funded by short term borrowing pending long term financing,  and request that the Board of Selectmen send the request to a machine vote referendum the same day as the budget referendum. Yonkers, Mazzucco.  Approved. Unanimous.

REPORT FROM TAX COLLECTOR

Ms. Moisio reported that slightly over 100% of the budget has been collected.  There are 90 households who have not paid, and about the same as last year.

REPORT FROM TREASURER

Treasurer O’Donnell provided a report on the status of funds.  The current total in the General Fund is $19,576,308.  Discussions on CD investments with Mr. Mazzucco and Mr. Karvelis are continuing. Mrs. O’Donnell will consult with town counsel as to whether the town funds could be deposited with the custodian bank of this investment platform.

EXECUTIVE SESSION

Motion: move that the Board of Finance recess to executive session for a discussion of litigation strategy.  Mazzucco, Yonkers. Approved. Unanimous.

Mrs. Pemberton, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Karvelis, Mr. Gniadek and Mrs. Moisio were invited to be present.

The meeting recessed at 9:09 pm

RECONVENE

The Chairman reconvened the meeting at 9:34 pm

Present: Alvarez (Chairman), Clark, DeSalvo, Dolan, Mazzucco, Yonkers

Also present: First Selectman Pemberton, Selectmen Karvelis & Thompson, Finance Director Gniadek, Treasurer O’Donnell, Tax Collector Moisio, ten members of the public, representative of the Redding Pilot, and the videographers

DISCUSSION OF BOARD OF SELECTMEN REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL FUNDS FY 2014-15.

Mrs. Pemberton reviewed the request for a supplemental appropriation:

  1.  Highway Overtime, contract services, salt & sand:
  2.  Overtime:  $65,798: costs incurred due to the winter weather
  3.  Contract Plowing of Streets: $4,486
  4.  Contract Plowing for schools, $3,420
  5.  Salt, $24,906
  6.  Retirement of Notes, $87,500, required BAN principal payment
  7.  Legal fees:
  8.  Special Legal, $65,321, overage to date
  9.  Estimated costs for tax appeals, $56,500
  10.  Estimated costs for GLDC issues, $22,000

Total, $329,922

That total can be offset by savings in the current year budget, and the amount was reduced to $180,922. The request would be funded from the Unassigned Fund Balance and would need approval at a Town Meeting.

Motion: move that the Board of Finance approved the request for a supplemental appropriation of $180,922, for Highway Department expenses, debt reduction and legal fees, to be funded from the Unassigned Fund Balance. Mazzucco, Yonkers,  Approved. Unanimous.

REPORT FROM FINANCE DIRECTOR

Mr. Gniadek provided a written report on the 2014-15 variances to the budget as of March 23, 2015.

BOARD MEMBER REPORTS

Mr. DeSalvo reported the Region 9 Board of Education would finalize their budget on March 26, 2015 and would soon make an announcement regarding the new school superintendent.

PUBLIC COMMENT

Peggy O’Donnell, Chestnut Woods Road:  Mrs. O’Donnell asked about the process to move the budget forward and would the Board schedule another meeting to finalize the Board of Education budget. Mr. Alvarez responded that a special meeting would need to be scheduled for April 6, 2015.

ADJOURNMENT

Motion: move that the Redding Board of Finance meeting be adjourned. Mazzucco, Yonkers. Approved. Unanimous.

The meeting adjourned at 9:46 pm

Submitted by Mary Maday, Recording Secretary

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