Board of Finance Meeting
Monday, November 27, 2017
7:30 p.m., Town Hall Hearing Room
Present: W. Mazzucco; S. Clark; K. Yonkers; R. Dean; E. Miller; J. Barickman.
Also present: First Selectman Julia Pemberton; Selectman P. O’Donnell; Director of Finance S. Gniadek; Treasurer W. Higgins; Tax Collector P. Moisio; Tax Clerk/WPCC Administrator K. Stauffer; members of the WPCC; members of the public; videographers.
In the absence of a Chairman and Vice-Chairman, ranking member Ward Mazzucco called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.
1. Election of Chairman and Vice Chairman
On the motion of Mr. Dean and the second of Mr. Miller, the Board voted unanimously to appoint Dr. Yonkers as Chairman. Ward Mazzucco then turned the gavel over to Dr. Yonkers.
On the motion of Mr. Barickman and the second of Ms. Clark, the Board voted unanimously to appoint Ward Mazzucco as Vice Chairman.
2. To approve Minutes of meeting held on October 23, 2017
On the motion of Mr. Mazzucco and the second of Ms. Clark, the Board voted to approve the 10/23/17 Meeting Minutes. Mr. Dean, Mr. Miller and Mr. Barickman abstained.
3. Public Comment
Dr. Yonkers invited public comment. No one made comments.
4. Comment from the Chairman
Chairman Yonkers thanked the members of the Board for their willingness to serve and noted that we all live together as neighbors. She expressed her hope for members of the Board and of the public to avoid negative comments and personal attacks at meetings or on social media. She reiterated that we all have the best interests of the town at heart and can engage in civil discourse.
5. 2017 CAFR Presentation (Scott Bassett-RSM, LLC)
The full report will be presented at the 12/18/17 meeting. Dr. Yonkers commented that she and others felt that the draft CAFR required further refinement from the auditors and requested annotation of any additional changes. She called for review at a special meeting on 12/12/17 at 6:00 p.m.
The Board reviewed the concept of retaining a financial consultant for technical accounting assistance. Mr. Dean stated that members of the Board should not be functioning as accountants and suggested additional staffing if needed. First Selectwoman Pemberton noted that the BOF does not have a budget and that in the context of the budget, the BOF should interact with Mr. Gniadek and the auditor. Board member Mr. Miller stated that we could invite volunteer members of the public who have special expertise to participate in projects that require such expertise to assist board. Dr. Yonkers noted that this is not a voting, or decision making position but a technical one and she would welcome the assistance of talented volunteers.
On the motion of Ms. Clark and the second of Mr. Mazzucco, the Board voted, with ayes by Dr. Yonkers, Ms. Clark, Mr. Mazzucco and Mr. Dean, to retain Jenifer Wyss as a volunteer financial consultant on an as-needed basis with the initial task of advising on the CAFR. A pool of potential volunteers will be compiled. The volunteer consultant will work with Steve Gniadek and will report to the Chair of BOF in a technical expertise capacity only. Mr. Barickman and Mr. Miller abstained.
6. 2017 Library Audit Report, Betsy Higgins
Jennifer Wastrom was present in addition to Betsy Higgins. An update of the last fiscal year was reviewed including endowments, fund raising, staffing and library program information. A team of roughly 150 volunteers raised about $293,000 this year. A more detailed plan will be presented January 5th at the town budget meeting. Members of the board and all members of the town are invited to attend this open meeting which is the Selectman’s Budget Workshop.
J. Pemberton confirmed that the library did not request an increase in Town contribution last year. Mr. Barickman asked why capital expenditures are separate items. Dr. Yonkers noted that the library is not listed as a Town asset in the budget and that may be one of the reasons.
Mr. Dean thought that the Town has historically not paid for capital expenses of the library, but First Selectwoman Pemberton noted the $500,000 contribution to the last expansion. Mr. Miller requested information re utilization trend over the last 3-5 years at the next presentation.
7. Tax Collector’s Report
Pat Moisio reviewed the Master Control report. Tax collections are at 54% over 53.8% at this time last year.
8. Finance Director’s Report
Mr. Gniadek provided an update on the evaluation of financial controls in the schools. He reported that most of the information requested from 2016 has been received and nothing has been received for 2017. Mr. Miller stated that “information requests are as voluminous as a regular audit” and that, while still on the Board of Education, he had received complaints from the Central Office staff. Mr. Gniadek suggested that the BOF should deal with Joe Centofani directly if the requests are going beyond the scope of the audit. Mr. Mazzucco suggested that the BOE contact the BOF with concerns. Dr. Yonkers noted that, since W. Alvarez is no longer on the Board, the new subcommittee members will be Mr. Gniadek, Dr. Yonkers, Mr. Mazzucco and Mr. Reiss.
The document outlining the scope of the audit will be re-sent to all Board members. Dr. Yonkers will try to coordinate a meeting with the subcommittee, Dr. McMorran and consultant from PKF O’Connor Davies to try to get J. Centofani and S. Reiss to agree on the data to be provided. Otherwise, the subcommittee will bring any disagreement back to the Board for resolution.
Budget meetings are being held with Department heads and the Selectmen’s Budget Workshop is scheduled for 1/5/18.
The State budget effect on the Town, including potential holdbacks of $25,612 will bring the total revenue shortfall to this year’s budget to $169,851.
The $60,000 approved transfer to WPCC leaves a balance of $144,450.
9. Treasurer’s Report
Wes Higgins reviewed submitted reports. A positive response to new formatting was noted.
10. WPCC Control Upgrade Project
Rich Regan, Jim Miller and the Dave Pattee were present for WPCC. A status report re: membrane replacement was provided. The bid process and probable cost of engineering design documents were discussed in light of the emergent need to replace the membranes while they are still being manufactured.
Mr. Pattee confirmed that the membrane system is state of the art in CT and one of few options. First Selectwoman Pemberton stated that her personal opinion is that the system needs to be upgraded. The relationship between Veolia and Layne Christensen as it relates to the WPCC was discussed and concluded to be a proprietary system for which a repair is needed. Dr. Yonkers suggested requesting Veolia to forward their proprietary design criteria for our system although other members of the Board were skeptical that they would do so because they are proprietary. Mr. Barickman noted that there is possible benefit for an outside firm to do an assessment of our system and the town’s needs and that we may want to consider this in the future.
On the motion of Mr. Mazzucco and the second of Ms. Clark, the Board voted unanimously to recommend to the Board of Selectmen to call either a referendum or Town Meeting, to be chosen at their discretion, to approve the expenditure of not more than $796,212 for modernization of the waste water treatment facility and extraordinary costs related to the recent failure, with the method of funding to be determined by the Board of Finance at a later time.
On the motion of W. Mazzucco and the second of K. Yonkers, the Board voted unanimously that, because of the high design costs necessary to bring the project to bid and because this is a repair of an existing system and the type of exigencies we face, to depart from the policy of requiring three bids.
11. Request for Region 9 Presentation (K. Yonkers)
Mr. Barickman initiated a discussion regarding the establishment of a process for review and comment on the BOE budget in an effort to “understand and factor in where they’re going with the budget.” First Selectwoman Pemberton stated that the Chair comes and speaks directly to the BOF regarding long-term planning. Mr. Miller noted the need to enhance communication and give Region 9 some additional direction. First Selectwoman Pemberton reported that communication has never been an issue and reiterated the BOE Chair meets with the BOF Chair directly.
Mr. Barickman will attend the Region 9 meetings and report back to the Board.
12. Engaging with the Public (E. Miller)
Mr. Miller requested individual BOF email addresses for the Board members. First Selectwoman Pemberton stated that individuals should not be speaking for the Board or communicating among each other. It was stated again that communication should be through the Chair. Mr. Gniadek will investigate fees for adding email addresses.
Mr. Dean noted that communication was an issue noted from the public during the recent campaign. First Selectwoman Pemberton stressed the desire for members of the public to attend meetings or watch live in order to be able to participate.
13. Reports from Individual Board members as assigned
14. Correspondence and Administrative matters
2018 Meeting Calendar
On the motion of Mr. Mazzucco and the second of Ms. Clark, the Board voted unanimously to approve the 2018 Meeting Calendar.
Chairman Yonkers extended an additional invitation for public comment. Jeanne Wendschuh, member of the public, noted her appreciation to the Board members for conducting open and transparent discussions of pending issues. Member of the public Jim Miller questioned when the new Board members were sworn in.
On the motion of Mr. Barickman and the second of Mr. Mazzucco, the Board voted unanimously to adjourn the meeting at 10:10 p.m.
Kristi C. Reilly