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Minutes of Board of Finance Public Hearing, 03/03/2016

AGENDA: Board of Finance Public Hearing

RECEIVED 03/07/2016 8:45am

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PUBLIC HEARING
ON PROPOSED 2015-17 ANNUAL BUDGET
REDDING BOARD OF FINANCE
MINUTES   March 3, 2016

Board of Finance: Alvarez (Chairman), Clark, Dolan, Mazzucco, O’Donnell, Yonkers

Also present: Finance Director Gniadek, Treasurer Meehan, First Selectmen Pemberton, Selectmen Karvelis & Thompson, Redding Board of Education Chair Sobel and members of the board & administration, Region 9 Board of Education Chair Vance Hancock and members of the board, about 100 members of the public, representatives of the Redding Pilot & Hello Redding, and the videographers.

Chairman Alvarez called the Public Hearing to order on March 3, 2016 at 7:30 pm in the Community Center.

BUDGET PRESENTATIONS

Region 9 Board of Education: Vance Hancock, Chairman of the Region 9 Board of Education stated that the 2016-17 budget has not as yet been finalized. The decline in enrollment in the lower schools has just begun to impact the high school, but the primary budget driver is the increase in the number of students requiring special services. The school will received 37 students with IEPs (Individual Education Plans) while exiting only 20 students. The proposed 2016-17 budget began with a 2.39% increase, is currently at 1.15%, and the board is continuing to look at potential savings and reductions. The next Region 9 Board of Education meeting is March 9, 2016.

Redding Board of Selectmen: First Selectman Julia Pemberton presented the Selectmen’s proposed 2016-17 budget. The Board of Selectmen approved a budget with a 0.31% increase, but with the result of decisions by the Board of Finance on financing of bonds, the current budget increase is 1.02% or $14,304,534.

On the revenue side, the Grand List increased by $1,800,000, or about 0.11%. Revenue from Town Services remains flat and Town Aid Road grant is projected to remain at current levels. An increase is State Aid is projected to increase by net $212,000 (Sales Tax Sharing).

On the expenditure side, the medical insurance experience is favorable, there is the potential of conversion of BAN to Bond, there are increased in contractual salaries for the Police, Dispatch & Highway employees. Gas, diesel and fuel oil market reductions are a benefit, and the repairs to the Umpawaug Schoolhouse and Annex building have been shifted the Capital Non-Recurring Account.

The presentation was followed by questions from the Board of Finance and members of the public.

Mr. Alvarez questioned the amount of the allocation to the Mark Twain Library, with a concern that they appear to be operating at a surplus. Mrs. Pemberton spoke to the importance of the Library to the community and the services they provide. The operating surplus is building a reserve fund.

Ms. Clark requested additional information on the usage and number of participants for the Park & Recreation programs.

Mrs. Pemberton noted that the Town has a new Social Worker, a licensed clinical social worker, which has increased that area of the budget. The new position is a 5-day position, and the Heritage Center will be staffed on Friday mornings for additional programs, activities, and open gym use. Heritage Center and Park & Recreation are working together for efficiencies in operations.

Question/comments from members of the public

Melinda Irwin, Black Rock Turnpike: Dr. Irwin spoke of the exceptional programs offered by the Park & Recreation Department, both for children and adults. She offered support for the programs, especially the extended day program.

Chris Parkin, Indian Hill Road: Mr. Parkin agreed with Dr. Irwin’s comments on the Park & Recreation programs, especially the extended day program. He offered support for the Mark Twain Library contribution, adding that it was worth the investment. He questioned the size of the police department and how it compares with other like towns.

Unidentified: This person spoke in support of the Mark Twain Library and what it has meant to him and his friends.

Lenore Pranzo, North Park Avenue Extension: Ms. Pranzo offered support for the Licensed Clinical Social Worker position.

Unidentified: this person commented that it was the schools and park & recreation opportunities that brought him to Redding.

Redding Board of Education: Sara Sobel, Chairman of the Redding Board of Education, presented the school proposed budget for 2016-17. The recommended budget stands at $21,300,000, with a 0.0% increase, or a flat budget. Mrs. Sobel reviewed the Board’s goals, the budget priorities, improvements and realignments.

She presented the reductions and eliminations, most of which are related to the decline in enrollment. Additional information on staffing contracts, State mandated assessments, testing scores and information, enrollment projections, class sizes analysis, DRG A comparisons and historical data on budgets over the past ten years. Mrs. Sobel explained that an increase in the students identified for special services is high, and represents 23.7% of the entire budget.

The Capital Request is for $5,000,000 to replace/the HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning) in both schools. The work at John Read Middle School would be done the summer of 2016 and the work at Redding Elementary School would be scheduled for the summer of 2017. The work includes replacement of existing classroom and office ventilators with hot water baseboard radiation. Currently much of the equipment is not functioning correctly and replacement parts are not available. Classrooms suffer from being either too hot or too cold. The new system would assure proper ventilation of all areas of the buildings and would be equipped with a building management control system to provide a centrally controlled temperature regulation.

The Board of Education is committed to long-range planning and a committee comprised of BoE, BoS, BoF members as well as other stakeholders will begin that work in the spring. The intent is to determine the most efficient allocation of resources in consideration of enrollment and demographic changes and building capacity, and will be an open and transparent process.

Questions and comments from the Board of Finance members and members of the public.

Board of Finance members asked many questions regarding the increase in special education costs, specifics of the proposed reductions in staffing, as well as the proposed HVAC project.

Brenda Phelps, Indian Hill Road: Mrs. Phelps commented that she is seeing more babies and children in town and questioned whether the Library had data on the specific ages of children attending their programs. She also supported the improvements in heating/cooling and air quality at the schools. She was disappointed that the Spanish program would not begin at the Kindergarten level.

Chris Parkin, Indian Hill Road: Mr. Parkin commented on the importance of the HVAC project and that he felt a zero % budget was too low. He referred to the numerous state and federal mandates that are unfunded. On the issue of special education, he stated that the investment at the earliest levels is cost effective in the long run.

Lisa Baran, Dan Beard Lane: Mrs. Baran agreed with Mr. Parkin’s comments, and suggested that the high paid administrators should not be taking increases while teachers are being let go.

Len Berry, Picketts Ridge Road: Mr. Berry spoke about the increasing tax burden, especially for the older population. He asked for budget reduction and for a plan to address the decline in school enrollment.

Karen Singleton, Seventy Acres Road: Mrs. Singleton explained that her family chose Redding because of the schools and the arts. She supports the HVAC project, commenting that the ceilings at JRMS have leaks, classrooms are too hot, and the conditions are a danger to the health and well-being of the children.

Keith Rich, Putnam Park Road: Mr. Rich commented that Mr. Berry’s comments could be addressed with affordable housing.

Amy Arnold, Werf Drive: Mrs. Arnold commented on the students who are overheated due to lack of ventilation in the schools. She added that the PTA helps the school as much as possible, but could never afford to fix the heating problems.

Conclusion

Mr. Alvarez thanked all who attended the Public Hearing. The Board of Finance will meet on Monday, March 7, 2016 at 7:30 pm to discuss and deliberate on the proposed budgets.

ADJOURNMENT

Motion: move to adjourn the meeting. Mazzucco, O’Donnell. Approved. Unanimous.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:46 pm.

Submitted by Mary Maday, Recording Secretary