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Minutes of Board of Finance, 02/24/2014

AGENDA: Board of Finance

RECEIVED 02/03/2014 8:30am
Michele R. Grande – Redding Town Clerk


Present: Alvarez (Chairman), Clark, Dolan, Mazzucco, Yonkers
Also present: First Selectmen Pemberton, Selectman Thompson, Selectman Karvelis, Finance Director Gniadek, Treasurer O’Donnell, Tax Collector Moisio, Assessor Ford, Redding Board of Education member Gaspar, School Superintendent Josefsberg, 30 members of the public. In addition, a representative of the Redding Pilot and two videographers were present.

Chairman Alvarez called February 24, 2014 meeting to order at 7:30 pm.

Motion: move to approve the minutes of the regular meeting on January 27, 2014 be approved as submitted. Mazzucco, Yonkers. Approved. Unanimous.

Peggy O’Donnell, Chestnut Woods Road: Mrs. O’Donnell requested that the Board of Finance reconsider the reapplication process for the Senior Tax Benefit program.

Dan Heller: Mr. Heller asked that the Board of Finance reconsider the reapplication process and suggested a paper registration would be better. He also suggested moving to a 10-year residency requirement rather than the proposed 5-year residency.

Ron Wendschuh, Deer Spring Road: Mr. Wendschuh commented on the importance of the Mark Twain Library to all the residents of Redding and asked that there be no reduction in the request for the Town’s contribution to the operating expenses.

Tax Collector Moisio reported that, as of today, 99.3% of the budgeted tax revenue was collected, and she anticipates additional payments before the end of the month. Mrs. Moisio is preparing for a tax sale of 8 to 10 real estate properties. These are for the 2010 Grand List where no attempt has been made to make payment. Notices will be sent to the owners warning of pending action.

Mr. Mazzucco asked about the status of the unpaid takes for the GLDC project. First Selectman Pemberton responded that all options for recovery of unpaid taxes are being considered with legal counsel. The current sale transaction is still pending and the preference is to see that transaction completed.

Mr. Gniadek highlighted his written report:

  • Expenditures: The Highway Department Salt account is currently $121,000 over budget, the overtime budget is about $20,000 over budget, and those numbers do not include the most recent storms. The TAR (Town Aid Road) Fund has a healthy balance and could be used to offset snow removal costs. The FEMA payment for Storm Sandy has not been received, about $240,000 is expected.
  • Revenue: Building permits are currently at $162,000 versus the budget of $176,000. Conveyance fees are currently under last year at the same time, but are expected to end the year on budget. The MSRA shortfall is before the General Assembly and the outcome looks favorable according to Connecticut Council of Municipalities (CCM). The Redding portion is $17,000.
  • Budget 2014-15: The Board of Selectmen and Redding Board of Education approved budgets have been forwarded to the Board of Finance and will be presented on Thursday, March 6, 2014. The meeting is at the John Read Middle School at 7:30 pm.
  • Auditor RFP: the Audit Selection Committee is reviewing the RFP for auditor services for Redding, Easton and Region 9. They expect to issue the RFP on February 27, 2014.
  • Banking relationship: A kickoff meeting with Webster Bank will be held in early March.
  • MIRMA (Municipal Intercity Risk Management Association): a meeting is scheduled for February 26 when members will vote on whether to transfer all liability through a Loss Portfolio Transfer (LPT). The Town will be bound by the majority vote. If voted to accept the LPT, the Redding portion will be approximately $58,000. This amount is an unbudgeted item.

Treasurer O’Donnell submitted a written report of the Town’s cash balances. The cash balance in the General Fund was $21,426,894. The cash balance in the Capital Nonrecurring is $999,642.

No new CDs were purchased due to lack of interest by the banks in the0.65% rates requested. She noted that both 12-month and 6-month terms were requested. She will continue to look and will check availability at a lower rate. Her objective is to have CDs of approximately $500,000 maturing each month.

The first transition meeting with Webster Bank is set for March 4, 2014. The logistics of the changeover will be reviewed and worked out.

Tax Assessor Ford reported the current 2013 Grand List if $1,628,497,125, which is about a 0.10% increase over the 2012 Grand List. That number will be further adjusted by the results of the action of the Board of Assessment Appeals and will be finalized before the mill rate is set in May.

Mr. Alvarez noted that the Board of Selectmen requested an adjustment to the program regarding the reapplication process. Mrs. Moisio stated that the change is from an “in person” reapplication every two years to a “signed paper” reapplication every two years. This will provide easier access to those individuals who are not able to reapply in person. She added that reminders will be sent out, including a notice in the tax bill when it is mailed.

Motion: move that the Redding Board of Finance approve amending the proposed Senior Tax Benefit Program to change the reapplication process from an in person reapplication to an option for reapplication by mail as discussed. Mazzucco, Clark. Approved. Unanimous.

The allocation of the School Resource Officer costs in the budget was discussed. Mr. Dolan stated that since the officers are hired, supervised and evaluated by the Police Chief, that cost belongs in the Police Department budget. He added that if the schools opt to provide schools safety officers that cost would be in the school budget. Mr. Mazzucco noted that other costs for police coverage, such as for traffic assistance for special events, are carried in the school budget, that the SRO costs should also be in the school budget.

Discussion followed. Chairman of the Redding Board of Education Gaspar commented that adding the item in the school budget could mean the board would face making a decision between education and safety. He questioned the impetus for making a change when the bottom line was the same for the tax payer regardless of what account was used for the cost. He added that the school administration, the Board of Education and the Police Chief all believe the cost should be in the Police Budget. Selectman Thompson noted that including the cost in the school budget could have an impact on the State Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR). School Superintendent Josefsberg commented that the MBR includes the education outlay for the Town of Redding, including Redding’s portion of the Joel Barlow High School budget, and excludes some items such as capital costs. The current budget, with an estimate of what the Region 9 Budget will be, without the SRO expenses, is very close to the MBR limit. First Selectman commented that the topic of school safety and costs is a subject being reviewed and discussed at the HVCEO (Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials).

Mr. Alvarez suggested that another year to review, to evaluate and to study the issue before making a change would be advisable.

Motion: move that the Redding Board of Finance include the School Resource Officer program in the Police budget for fiscal year 2014-15 and review the topic prior to the next fiscal year. Dolan, Yonkers. Approved. 4-1. Mr. Mazzucco voted against the motion.

First Selectman reported that the Board of Selectmen budget was approved without a line item for loans to the WPCC. The Selectmen were in agreement that the Town needs to support the WPCC and the operation of the Georgetown plant. The Selectmen expressed concern about funding the “delta” through the operating budget next year when the Town’s unassigned fund balance, the current funding mechanism, is at a very healthy level. She added that a review was conducted in July of last year to consider incorporating the WPCC operation into a Town department and Town Counsel advised against it for legal reasons.

Mr. Alvarez stated that he preferred that the “loan” to the WPCC be included in the budgeting process in some way.

Mr. Alvarez reported he had one email from a resident requesting that the SRO funding remain in the Police Department budget.

Mr. Mazzucco reported on a report he requested from the school administration on the education funding for Redding schools compared with the funding for the Easton schools. The information was distributed to board member and will be discussed at the next meeting. Mr. Mazzucco summarized the information, noting that the cost per pupil for fiscal 2013-14 was $20,515 for Redding schools and $16,031 for Easton schools. Region 9 costs were not included in these numbers. He added that some of the difference is in the way some things are funded, i.e. Easton has access to a natural gas line, the property & liability insurance and some building maintenance is carried in the Town budget, and the schools have strong financial support from the Easton Learning Foundation. Redding has some programmatic differences. More information and discussion will be held at the next meeting.
Peggy O’Donnell, Chestnut Woods Road: Mrs. O’Donnell thanked the board for their consideration on the Senior Tax Benefit reapplication process.

Elaine Kokoska, Gallows Hill Road: Mrs. Kokoska thanked the board for allowing a paper reapplication process for the Senior Tax Benefit program. She added that she believes that the funding for the SRO program should be in the education budget. Regarding the GLDC project, she suggested the Town take ownership of the property and market it to developers.
Bill Spies, Mountainview Road: Mr. Spies questioned why the qualifying age for the Senior Tax Benefit was being raised to age 67. Mr. Alvarez responded that the age will correspond with Social Security eligibility and will be phased in over the next two years.

Rosalind Kopfstein, Diamond Hill Road: Mrs. Kopfstein thanked the board for changing the reapplication process to a paper application for the Senior Tax Benefit. She questioned if there was an appeal process for those individuals who may be disqualified. Mr. Alvarez responded that the resident must show proof of residency that meets the requirements.

Jim Miller, Middlebrook Pond Road: Mr. Miller asked if there were any exit costs or penalty fees associated with the Town changing banking institutions. Mrs. O’Donnell responded that she is not aware of any with the exception of bank checks that would not be used.

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

The meeting adjourned at 9:01 pm

Respectfully submitted,
Mary Maday, Recording Secretary