Select Page

Minutes of Board of Finance – Public Hearing, 03/14/2013

AGENDA: Board of Finance – Public Hearing

RECEIVED 03/19/2013 8:30am
Michele R. Grande – Redding Town Clerk

Minutes

Present:

Board of Finance: Alvarez (Chairman), DeSalvo, Dolan, Guffey, Mazzucco, Yonkers

Board of Selectmen:  Ketcham, Pemberton, Takacs

Redding Board of Education: Ajavananda, Barickman (8:21 pm), D’Agostino, Gaspar, Irwin, Sobel

Region 9 Board of Education:  Gombos, Lewis, Karvelis

Also present:   Redding Finance Director Gniadek, School Superintendent Josefsberg, School Business Director Sullivan, videographers, a representative of the Redding Pilot, and about 20 members of the public

 

Chairman Alvarez began the March 14 Budget Hearing at 7:33 pm in the Community Room of the John Read Middle School.

 

Redding Board of Education

Dr. Jess Gaspar, Chairman, presented the Redding Board of Education’s proposed budget for 2013-2014.

Highlights of the presentation:

  • Proposed budget increase over current year budget is 0.5%, representing a budget of $21,745,551.
  • Budget priorities include continued commitment to personalized learning, maintenance of high quality staff, management of declining enrollment, adaption to mandated changes, funding of physical plant and security needs and replenishment of health insurance reserve.
  • Reduction in staff positions, primarily due to declining enrollment in both schools
  • Reductions in Special Education budget as students move from middle school to the high school.
  • Health insurance reserve fund needs to be replenished due to heavy claims in past two years.
  • Expenses actually decrease, with the increase due to replenishment of health insurance reserve fund.
  • New program, Elementary World Language Pilot program for $25,000.
  • Unfunded mandates include Professional Evaluation Classroom Observation $21,766; Common Core Curriculum Revision $27, 575; and Benchmark & Standardized Testing $25,463

Discussion, question & answer:

Mr. Alvarez asked if the board reviewed the funding by classroom compared with other towns.  Dr. Gaspar did not have that data.  Mr. Alvarez questioned the replenishment of the Health Insurance Reserve Fund, the recommendation for the fund is $400,000 to $500,000, the proposed increase brings the level to $342,000.  Mr. Alvarez asked how many of the staff reductions were for certified staff. Dr. Gaspar responded that reduction in certified staffing at RES was 2 FTE (Full Time Equivalent), at JRMS it is 3.4 FTE and in Special Education it is 0.4FTE certified and 3 FTE non-certified positions.

Mr. Dolan asked about the state of health insurance reserves in the other two school districts.  Dr. Gaspar responded that both Easton and Region 9 are in good condition.

Mr. Mazzucco asked if the Board of Education had considered including the School Resource Officer and the Youth Officer expenses in their operating budget.  Dr. Gaspar responded that typically this is not done in surrounding towns. .  The two positions are the responsibility of and report directly to the Police Chief.  The two positions are only 180 day positions for the schools, with the remainder of the time working directly for the Police Department. Generally police officers are town employees.

Mr. Guffey commented that the declining enrollment is directly impacting expenditures.  He added that should the economy change, there could be a shift in enrollment numbers.

Dr. Yonkers asked if the board had considered creating part-time positions, or shared positions.  Dr. Gaspar responded that this has been considered, is being done, and will continue to be an option.

Mr. Barickman arrived, 8; 21 pm

Dr. Yonkers asked how many classroom teachers had paraprofessional assistants in their rooms.  Dr. Gaspar responded that only the Kindergarten classrooms have assistants.  This year, there are six Kindergarten classes, five had aides and the sixth class has a smaller number of students with no aide.

Region 9 Board of Education

Region 9 Chair, Cathy Gombos, reported board will not finalize their budget until Tuesday, March 19, 2013.  The proposed budget increase of 2.17% was considered and the administration is now working to bring the increase down to 1.95% for final board approval. Enrollment at Joel Barlow High School is stable, with a small increase projected for next year. There is a significant increase in Special Education expenses as some Easton and Redding students move from the middle school to the high school.  The apportionment between Easton and Redding, with a 1.95% increase, has an increase for Easton of 0.15% and an increase for Redding of 3.48%.

The Region 9 Board of Education is also considering two major capital requests:  Roof (on original portion of facility) replacement/restoration currently estimated at $1,900,000 and stadium facility improvements currently estimated at $2,800,000.  The Board anticipates having the capital request for the roofing project ready for submission to the taxpayers with the May budget referendum.  The request for the stadium improvements will be ready shortly after that.

Discussion, question and answer:

Mr. Alvarez asked if any security improvement were planned for the high school.  Mrs. Gombos responded that a plan has been developed for a change in the main/front entrance of the school to provide an additional level of security.  That project, with an estimated cost of $26,000, could be funded through the boards Capital Reserve Fund.

Mr. Dolan asked if about security personnel at the school.  Mrs. Gombos responded that the school currently has four security positions and the proposed budget includes a fifth position.  While these positions are not staffed by police personnel, the individual in the positions have significant training and experience with security and one individual is a retired police officer.  She explained that board has discussed adding a school resource officer, but favors the current configuration for student management and security.

Mrs. Pemberton asked about the stadium improvements and if there would be consideration to moving forward with specific items, i.e. ADA compliance items, rather than the whole package of improvements.  Mrs. Gombos responded that the specific items will be costed out and the project could move forward either as one package or an a la carte version.

Town Budget

First Selectman Ketcham presented the proposed budget for the town side of the budget.

Revenue:

  • The grand list is down 18.6% from the previous year.
  • Town services revenue is projected to be flat
  • State Aid, this is not finalized, with the potential of elimination of the car tax being a significant factor. However, this would not be effective until 7/1/2014 at the earliest.

Expenses:

  • Union contracts with the Highway and Police Departments are in negotiations at this time.
  • Debt service has been reduced due to refinancing
  • Economic conditions are improving, there has been an increase in building permits
  • Medical health insurance; the initial increase was 25% over the current year, with a portion of the increase due to the Affordable Care Act.  Options are being explored, including rebidding and consideration of moving to a self-insured plan with the schools.  Since the Board of Selectmen approved the proposed budget, Anthem (health care insurance) has reduced their cost by $40,000.
  • Pension contributions:  this has an increase of 10%.  The pension plan (Municipal Employee Retirement Fund) MERF currently has the municipality bearing the cost of increases.  There is a bill moving through the state legislature that calls for increases in the employee portion.
  • Police Services:  the net increase for the year is $25,941.  The increase reflects two retirements and the two new officers.
  • Leased vehicles: only one truck for the Highway Department is proposed.
  • Mark Twain Library:  the proposed increase is $10,000, 2.4%, which maintains the Town’s contributions to the Library at the 65% level.
  • Park & Recreation, addition of $22,920 for extended day program at JRMS, to be offset by revenue for program.

Reductions in budget:

  • Debt service is down by $173,131
  • Revaluation:  this has been completed below the budgeted amount by $85,000
  • Police Department: overtime budget has been reduced by $78,052 and there is a reduction in building maintenance of $12,000, and reduction from 2 to 1 part time dispatcher.
  • Park & Recreation, reduction of $10,000 with reduction in summer camp activities
  • Energy savings: reduction in pricing of fuel oil and reductions due to energy efficiency initiatives in all the town’s buildings.

Mrs. Ketcham provided additional detail on the Police Department budget compared with the surrounding towns. She also recapped the results of the real estate reevaluation process and impact on the budget & mill rate.

In summary:  The overall budget increase, including Town, Redding Board of Education, and anticipated Region 9 (Redding portion), is a 1.29% increase over the current year.

Discussion, question and answer:

Mr. Alvarez commented that the board had previously discussed having the revaluation costs were to be prorated over the five years. Mrs. Ketcham cautioned that the state revaluation process rules continue to change and there is consideration of moving from the five year increment to a longer increment primarily due to the costs of the process.

Mr. Dolan questioned the increase in health care costs.  Mr. Gniadek responded that cost is based on actual claims, but Redding is part of a larger pool of municipalities.  20% of the cost is based on Redding’s claims and 80% on the other municipalities. Mr. Dolan asked that more specific information be requested to account for the large increase.

Dr. Yonkers asked about the increase in the Police Department staffing.  Mrs. Ketcham responded that the staffing level of officers will be 17.  154 candidates applied for the two open police officer positions.  The Board of Selectmen interviewed four finalist candidates, and authorized Police Chief Fuchs to offer positions to two officers who are certified, and will not need to attend the Police Academy. The net increase for the additional staffing is $25,941.

Public comment and questions

Jim Miller, Middlebrook Pond Road: Mr. Miller asked about the average home cost as a result of the revaluation process.  Mr. Gniadek responded that the average is $616,999, down 18.5%.

Jeanne Wendschuh, Deer Spring Road:  Mrs. Wendschuh asked if the Town’s presentation could be posted on the Town website.  Mrs. Ketcham said that it would be.

Tom Hauser, Charlie Hill Road:  Mr. Hauser spoke of the importance of the Mark Twain Library as a cultural asset and a community resource.

Kim Thompson, Old Stagecoach Road:  Mrs. Thompson suggested the Town consider health insurance options such as HSA account.  She commented on the uncertainity of the State budget, and suggested a budget with a backup budget proposal to reflect changes in state funding.   Mrs. Ketcham commented that the town instituted a HSA system a few years ago.

Leon Karvelis, Umpawaug Road:  Mr. Karvelis complimented Mrs. Ketcham on her presentation, also her last as First Selectman.  He asked what was budgeted for property and liability insurance, and if that coverage had been bid recently.  Mr. Gniadek responded that the budget was about $75,000, and the insurance is bid annually.  Mr. Karvelis asked about the status of the Gilbert & Bennett property taxes owed to the Town.  Mrs. Ketcham responded that there was an arrearage of just over 1,000,000.

Conclusion:

Mr. Alvarez concluded the meeting, announcing that the Board of Finance would deliberate further on the budget at their next meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 9:19 pm

Respectfully submitted,

Mary Maday, Recording Secretary