BOARD OF FINANCE
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2018
TOWN HALL MEETING ROOM
Kim Yonkers, Chair; Rob Dean; Susan Clark; Ed Miller; Jamie Barickman; Ward Mazzucco
Steve Gniadek, Finance Director; Wes Higgins, Treasurer; Julia Pemberton, First Selectwoman; Peg O’ Donnell, Selectwoman; Members of the Public
Chair Yonkers called the meeting to order at 7:32PM.
1. TO APPROVE MINUTES OF BOF MEETING HELD ON OCTOBER 22, 2018
MOTION: Mr. Mazzucco motioned to approve the minutes of the October 22, 2018 Board of Finance meeting. Mr. Barickman seconded the motion that passed with five yes votes (Yonkers, Mazzucco, Dean, Barickman, and Miller) and one abstention (Clark).
Chair Yonkers opened the floor to public comment.
Ben Pardee from Redding Fire District #1 asked if he could discuss possible radio upgrades. Chair Yonkers stated that this item was not on the agenda. First Selectwoman Pemberton asked if this item could be added to the agenda.
MOTION: Mr. Miller motioned to add the Radio Upgrade project as an item to this meeting’s agenda, at the Chair’s discretion. Mr. Mazzucco seconded the motion. The vote was unanimous, and the motion passed.
2. RADIO UPGRADE PROJECT FOR REDDING FIRE DISTRICTS
First Selectwoman Pemberton discussed how the Town upgraded the Police Department’s radios. The Fire Departments of Redding also have considered upgrading their radios and have hired a consultant to conduct a study about the potential project.
Phyllis Magnusson of Fire District #1 stated that the fire chiefs contacted each other about the radios. The paging system is obsolete, and the radios are no longer manufactured. The radios are being kept functional through maintenance. The license for the low-band service will expire in 2023. A VHF system was installed for the Redding Police Department, and the fire departments want to join that system. The study has identified the necessary steps to upgrading the radios. She said that she hopes that town will assist with the infrastructure portion of the project.
Mr. Pardee stated what the consultant discovered in the study. He said that a pricing estimate has been worked out. Mr. Mazzucco asked Mr. Pardee if there is a specific request or is this just a preview of a future request.
First Selectwoman Pemberton stated that this would be a capital expense for the 2019-2020 budget. Ms. Magnusson stated that the design phase of this project would take up to half a year to complete and would cost approximately $86,000. The Town will be asked to contribute a quarter of the cost of the design phase, totaling $21,600. She said after the design phase, the true cost of the project will be defined.
Chair Yonkers asked about the overall cost of the project. Mr. Pardee said that the cost of the overall project would be between $2,000,000 and $2,500,000 based on a rough estimate. After the design phase, the bidding process will narrow this number down.
Mr. Dean asked about the long-term implications of this project. Mr. Pardee answered by saying that each of the Fire Districts would purchase approximately $333,000 worth of equipment necessary for the project.
First Selectwoman Pemberton said there are four repeater sites throughout the Town, as well as portable radios. The Town pays for dispatch. Ms. Magnusson stated that when the Fire Districts join the Police Department’s system, there will be more overall efficiency in communication.
Mr. Barickman stated that several years ago, another member of a fire department provided a similar presentation to the board. He asked Mr. Pardee if this upgrade will bring the Town in line with other first responder systems moving forward. Mr. Pardee said that Low-Band equipment is harder to acquire now, and Bethel, Ridgefield, Danbury, and Wilton have upgraded to VHF radio systems. Easton still has a Low-Band Radio system.
Mr. Barickman asked about the taxing structure that will be used to fund the project. Mr. Dean asked about the Town’s contribution. First Selectwoman Pemberton stated that this was not budgeted for this current fiscal year. Ms. Magnusson stated that the written report on this project was not completed until August 2018.
Mr. Barickman asked why the town is being asked to contribute a quarter of the cost of the design phase. Ms. Magnusson stated that the town’s dispatchers need to be part of this process, and thus, would need to contribute to design process.
First Selectwoman Pemberton stated that the Town of Redding is unique in having three separate fire districts.
Mr. Pardee explained the current situation the Fire Departments deal with. They cannot directly talk to the Police during an event but instead go through the dispatcher. The only direct line of access to the Police is a radio in an ambulance.
Mr. Barickman asked about the Fire District’s budgeting process. Mr. Pardee stated that the Fire Districts have planned for this in their budgets and will tax appropriately. Chair Yonkers asked Mr. Pardee and Ms. Magnusson why the Town is being asked to contribute a quarter of the cost of the design phase. Ms. Magnusson answered that this number was arrived at because the design phase will require the Town’s cooperation, resources, and infrastructure.
First Selectwoman Pemberton said that the Town has a AAA bond rating which would enable less expensive borrowing to assist the Fire Districts in this project. Mr. Pardee stated that this project could be completely funded by the fire districts, but this option is not advantageous to the fire districts or the taxpayers.
Chair Yonkers asked First Selectwoman Pemberton about the budget item she mentioned earlier that needs to be addressed immediately. First Selectwoman Pemberton said that the $21,600for the design phase of the radio upgrade project was not budgeted. She said there are two options to fund this. The first would be to look at what has been budgeted and to find cuts or unspent funds to use. The second option would be the contingency fund.
Mr. Miller asked where this funding would come from. First Selectwoman Pemberton suggested using the Capital Non-Recurring fund. She said that any item over $10,000 requires a town meeting to approve. Because the amount is only $21,600, a machine vote may not be necessary.
Steve Gniadek suggested using LOCIP (Local Capital Improvement) to fund the Town’s share of the design process. He stated that the Town is using LOCIP for the design of the Station Road Bridge.
Mr. Pardee asked Mr. Gniadek to explain how LOCIP works. Mr. Gniadek explained that the State of Connecticut provides money for towns to complete certain capital projects. The money accumulates and currently the balance is approximately $500,000.
Mr. Barickman asked if it would make sense for the Town to use LOCIP to fund the entire $86,000 design phase. Mr. Gniadek stated that the Fire Districts complicate this request. Chair Yonkers stated that there is nothing requiring proportionality, and the Town could pay the portion of the design phase that concerns Town infrastructure.
Mr. Dean stated that the Town should be cautious using LOCIP funds.
First Selectwoman Pemberton discussed proportionality in funding between the Fire Districts and the relationship between the design fee and the actual cost of infrastructure improvements that need to be made.
Ms. Clark asked if it was appropriate to discuss this topic tonight since it was not on the initial agenda. Mr. Miller answered that this has been purely informational. Mr. Mazzucco followed this statement by asking if the board needs to take action tonight or if the decision can be made at December’s meeting. First Selectwoman Pemberton stated that she will come back with more information.
Chair Yonkers asked if there was a bid process that the Fire Departments went through when choosing the vendor for the design phase. Ms. Magnusson stated that Purecon is being used in the design phase because of their work in the Town of New Fairfield. A different vendor will be used for the installation of the upgrade. This is to ensure the new system will work and to eliminate the bias that could result if the vendor prepared the design.
3. TAX COLLECTOR’S REPORT
Pat Moisio could not attend the meeting. Mr. Gniadek shared her information with the board.
For the month of October 54.4% of the tax bill has been collected. This is an increase of 0.4% compared to last year.
54.7% of the tax bill has been collected as of Monday, 11/26/2018. This is a 3% increase over last year.
4. FINANCE DIRECTOR’S REPORT
Mr. Gniadek discussed the FY 2018 audit. The draft should be completed by the end of this week. The auditors are waiting on the State of CT for the pension numbers. Friday, 11/30 is the date the auditors have suggested as a viable draft day.
Mr. Gniadek asked the board to consider having a special meeting for the auditors. He said it should happen around Monday, 12/17. This gives an opportunity for the BOF to ask questions to the auditors, and doesn’t take very long.
Chair Yonkers stated her support for this. The special meeting will be at the Redding Community Center on Monday, 12/17, and will start at 6:30PM instead of 7:30PM to allow for presentation of the audit report.
Mr. Gniadek said the BOE procedural audit is moving along. He spoke with Mr. Centofanti, the auditor, and stated that he will not have his final testing completed until January 2019.
Mr. Gniadek decided to lock-in half of the requirements for six months for gas and diesel. Mr. Gniadek stated that the Town was part of a fuel consortium until four years ago. The Town has remained with the consortium for fuel oil but moved to Santa Buckley Energy for Gas and Diesel due to their lower pricing. The pricing is based on oil futures.
Mr. Gniadek updated the Board about budget season. He will meet with the department heads to discuss their proposed budgets on December 4th and 5th.
5. TREASURER’S REPORT
Mr. Higgins told the Board that as of Monday, 11/26/2018, the Town has approximately $17,000,000 in Operating Funds. Interest Income at year to date is $13,400 over budget. Treasury bills are running ahead.
Mr. Higgins provided the Board with a risk report. This elaborated the risks facing the financial status of the Town and how this risk is mitigated.
Mr. Mazzucco asked Mr. Higgins to clarify what Janney Montgomery does for the Town. Mr. Higgins answered that Janney Montgomery takes the Town’s cash and invests it in treasury notes or FDIC-insured CD’s. This is to reduce the risk the Town’s broker’s cash can face. Mr. Higgins indicated that Janney’s SIPC insurance is adequate for the Town’s needs.
Chair Yonkers asked Mr. Higgins about his forecast on interest rates. Mr. Higgins explained that the forecast is derived from a third-party, and it forecasts the action Federal Reserve may take on interest rates.
6. 2019 MEETING SCHEDULE
MOTION: Mr. Dean made a motion to approve the calendar as it was sent. Mr. Mazzucco seconded the motion. The vote was unanimous, and the motion carried.
The calendar is below:
Monday, January 28
Monday, February 25
Thursday, March 14 (Budget – Community Center)
Monday, March 18 (Budget – if needed)
Monday, March 25
Monday, April 1 (Budget – if needed)
Monday, April 22
Tuesday, May 7 (to set Tax Rate – Community Center)
Monday, May 20
Monday, June 24
Monday, July 22
Monday, August 26
Monday, September 26
Monday, October 28
Monday, November 25
Monday, December 16 (with BOE and BOS – Community Center)
Note: All meetings at 7:30PM at Town Hall Hearing Room unless otherwise noted above.
7. UPDATE ON OPEN GOV AND MULTI YEAR BUDGETS (FIRST SELECTWOMAN PEMBERTON)
First Selectwoman Pemberton stated that a preliminary proposal on the budgeting model was provided to the Town. She said Mr. Gniadek will have a discussion with the Town of Darien’s Finance Director about their experience with Open Gov before any decisions are made.
First Selectwoman Pemberton spoke with the Town of Wilton’s First Selectwoman. She said that they only project out to three years. Contractual items are included in this budget forecasting.
Mr. Miller stated that he is curious if town’s that engage in Multi-Year Budgeting improve forecasting cost increases.
Mr. Barickman provided a 3-year budget planning summary document to the Board to illustrate how multi-year planning would look like as a concept. This document is simple enough to allow anyone using it to focus on the larger, strategic costs.
Mr. Barickman stated that Central Office has been reluctant to engage in multi-year planning. He said that this is because Central Office may be concerned that doing multi-year planning does not provide the flexibility needed to adapt to changing needs.
Chair Yonkers said that Central Office has not had a chance to hear from its schools concerning budgeting, and this makes the Multi-Year Planning meeting a challenge.
Mr. Gniadek proposed three dates for the Multi-Year Planning meeting: Monday, 12/3, Monday, 12/10, or Tuesday, 12/11. The Board discussed the feasibility of the meeting. Chair Yonkers stated that due to everyone’s commitments, this meeting may not be able to happen.
First Selectwoman Pemberton stated that it is simpler for the Town to put a presentation together on their budget compared to the BOE. The BOE has more complexities in their budget. She said she can put something together for the Monday, 12/17 meeting.
The Board discussed requesting a presentation from the BOE.
Mr. Barickman stated he will send everyone involved in this meeting the document he produced.
Mr. Barickman asked Mr. Gniadek about the Grand List. First Selectwoman Pemberton stated that the Grand List will stay stable unless a major construction boom occurs. Mr. Gniadek stated that a 0.1 to 0.2% change from year to year in the Grand List is accurate.
Chair Yonkers asked Mr. Higgins about capital projects. He stated that he needs the official numbers on the Radio Upgrade project.
8. REPORTS FROM INDIVIDUAL BOARD MEMBERS AS ASSIGNED
There were no reports from individual board members.
9. CORRESPONDENCE AND ADMINISTRATIVE MATTERS
Chair Yonkers asked Mr. Gnaidek about the topic he discussed. He mentioned that the auditors informed him that they would not be able to complete the audit until they receive the pension numbers from the State of CT.
10. PUBLIC COMMENT
Chair Yonkers opened the floor to public comment. No members of the public commented.
Mr. Mazzucco motioned to adjourn. Mr. Miller seconded the motion. The vote was unanimous, and the motion passed.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:39PM.