Board of Finance: Alvarez (Chairman), Clark, Dolan, Mazzucco, O’Donnell, Yonkers
Also present: Finance Director Gniadek, Treasurer Meehan, Tax Collector Moisio, First Selectmen Pemberton, Selectman Karvelis, Assessor Ford, Board of Education Chair Sobel, School Superintendent McMorran, School Finance Director Sullivan, nine members of the public, a representative of the Redding Pilot & Hello Redding, and the videographers
Chairman Alvarez called the meeting to order on February 22, 2015 at 7:30 pm in the Hearing Room of the Town Hall.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Finance accept the minutes of the January 25, 2015 meeting as submitted. O’Donnell, Mazzucco. Approved. Unanimous.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Finance accept the minutes of the February 11, 2015 meeting as submitted. O’Donnell, Mazzucco. Approved. 4-0-2. Dr. Yonkers and Mr. Dolan abstained.
REPORT FROM TAX COLLECTOR
Tax Collector Moisio reported that collection rate as of today was 98.88% and she anticipates additional funds coming in this week. She noted that a new legislative bill has been proposed that would allow motor vehicles to be registered even if there are delinquent taxes. She and the state Tax Collectors are opposed to the proposed legislation.
REPORT FROM FINANCE DIRECTOR
Mr. Gniadek reported on the following:
- S&P Rating Call: notification has been received that the Town’s AAA rating was affirmed on the current bonds, and they issued a new AAA rating on the refunding bonds.
- Bond Refunding: this was completed on February 17, 2016, with a new interest rate of 1.85% compared with 3.3% on the original bond. The savings is $319,000, of which $287,000 will occur in FY 2018.
- Auditor’s Management Letter: In response to the auditor’s Management Letter, action has been taken on two control deficiencies. Both were not considered significant deficiencies or material weaknesses. The first was related to the importance of issuance of purchase requisitions prior to the purchase or work being performed. All department heads have been informed of the policy. The second was related to showing revenues and expenses being netted together within a balance sheet account instead of being represented in separate accounts within the income statement. Mr. Gniadek indicated that this situation relates to a state grant that was paid upfront to the Town. All state grants are now issued on a reimbursement basis, so this will not occur in the future.
REPORT FROM TREASURER
Mrs. Meehan provided a written report on bank balances. She asked for clarification on the investment policy guidelines with respect to the Town’s checking account and investment account, specifically with regard to the requirement regarding the $250,000 FDIC coverage.
Discussion followed on the fluctuating balance in the checking account. Board members were in agreement that maintaining a reasonable balance to fund operations was appropriate. This account is not subject to the investment policy limiting the balance to $250,000.
Regarding the investment account, Ms. Meehan provided a letter from Webster Bank outlining various levels of investment and risk. These included money market accounts, secured municipals and repo agreements. Ms. Meehan was asked to get more information and detail regarding the rates and options for the various levels. Ms. O’Donnell noted that this information is different from the original discussions when the Town changed to Webster Bank.
Ms. Meehan provided information on investment opportunities with Janney Montgomery, one for a $2,000,000 investment and one for $3,000,000 investment. The investments include a laddering of funds ranging from 6 month to 18 month investments. Following discussion, Ms. Meehan, as Treasurer, has the authority to determine the amount to invest.
GRAND LIST OCTOBER 1, 2015 REPORT FROM ASSESSOR FORD
Assessor Ford provided a report on the October 1, 2015 Grand List, $1,633,281,007 which is a 0.10% over the previous year. The report showed estimated Net Grand List Changes brought the Total Net Realistic Grand List to $1,621,706,487 which is a 0.11% increase.
DISCUSSION AND ACTION ON BOARD OF EDUCATION EXPENSE REVIEW (PA 13-60)
School Finance Director provided the board with the proposed Operation/Maintenance, Physical Plant costs for the Redding Elementary School and John Read Middle School, as required by PA 13-60. The board members were asked to submit their questions to Mr. Gniadek and he will submit them in writing to Mrs. Sullivan prior to the March 3, 2016 Public Hearing on the budget.
DISCUSSION AND REVIEW OF SCHOOL VISITS
Mr. Alvarez noted that a walk-through of both the elementary and middle schools took place on February 11, 2016. Mr. Mazzucco offered his observations of the visit.
- Some rooms/areas of both buildings are difficult to manage the temperature and ventilation.
- There was a concern about the planned work on the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning) that included replacement of individual units with duct work and impact on the future use of the building.
- Further discussion of the future of the buildings is needed, by a committee composed of representatives of the Board of Education, Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, Planning and Zoning Commission.
Redding Board of Education Chairman Sara Sobel commented that the board had a long-range planning committee did exploratory work, but that work has stalled. It is the intent to reorganize the efforts on a broader level to include more constituents when the operating budget is finalized. She added that she does not see the closing of a school is feasible in the near future, and does not want the facilities to fall further out of date.
Mike D’Agostino, member of the Facilities Committee for the Board of Education, was present for the walk-through, and offered further observations. The combining of all students in one of the buildings is not feasible until 2021. The planned HVAC work will include major duct work, that would be reusable should the future reorganization of the interior structure change. The branches off the major duct work could easily be altered to accommodate room changes.
Mr. D’Agostino also indicated that if the students were combined into one school, it was likely that additional costs would be incurred as a result of the need to add an additional cafeteria and gymnasium to accommodate the additional students, as well as other changes to accommodate the change in age of the school population (bathrooms, science facility, etc.). Once a school is closed, if it is needed in the future, the reopening of the school would require work and cost to bring the building up to the current building code.
Dr. Yonkers commented on the need to have a plan in place for the future of the two schools. It is important to establish a committee to do the work of creating a plan, one that includes both the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance.
BOARD MEMBER REPORTS
Mr. Alvarez noted that the Region 9 Board of Education has requested a replacement representative for their Financial Advisory Committee. Frank DeSalvo previously was the Board’s representative. Dr. Yonkers will represent the board for the March 23, 2016 meeting. First Selectman Pemberton supported the work of the Region 9 FAC committee, which functions similarly to the board of finance, and how it has improved communication and the level of trust.
Ms. O’Donnell suggested that the documents that the board reviews at the meetings be made available to the public in advance or at the meeting. Mr. Gniadek will forward any attachments he receives to the Town Clerk for posting on the website.
Len Berry, Picketts Ridge Road: Mr. Berry commented that the relationship between the quality of education and property values. He noted that the level of taxes was driving the older residents out of town and it was time to see the tax rate go down, not just remain flat. He urged the board to reduce the spending on education.
Keith Rich, Putman Park Road: Mr. Rich commented on the need for quality education. He referred to a New York Post article that recognized Region 9 Joel Barlow High School in Redding and housing in Redding as a good buy. He suggested getting the Georgetown project moving as a means to reducing taxes.
Motion: move to adjourn the meeting. Dolan, Mazzucco Approved. Unanimous.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:48 pm.
Submitted by Mary Maday, Recording Secretary