Board of Finance
Special Meeting Minutes
Thursday, May 17,2018
7:30PM, Town Hall Hearing Room
Present: Dr. Kim Yonkers, Chair; Ed Miller; Rob Dean, Ward Mazzucco; Susan Clark; Jamie Barickman
Also present: Steve Gniadek, Finance Director; Julia Pemberton, First Selectwoman; Michael Thompson, Selectman; members of the public
The Chair called the meeting to order at 7:34PM.
1. Public Comment
Chair Yonkers invited Steve Gniadek to share with the BOF the draft spreadsheet currently being used to calculate the BOS, BOE, and Region 9 budgets.
Mr. Gniadek explained the spreadsheet. State aid will be coming, but the dollar amount is variable. Investment income has increased for the coming year. Addbacks were discussed.
Jeff Fligelman of Pocahontas Road asked about the taxpayer increase in the referendum budget. Rob Dean answered his question in terms of house appraisals. Ed Miller and Susan Clark also discussed. First Selectwoman Julia Pemberton commented and explained home appraisals. Mr. Fligelman redirected the conversation towards four numbers: referendum budget, referendum tax increase, new budget, and new tax increase.
Alex Gray of Limekiln Road commented about home reevaluation. Mr. Dean explained that home reevaluation isn’t necessarily going to increase tax burden.
Chair Yonkers asked Mr. Gniadek to discuss the grand list. Chair Yonkers confirmed that state aid may or may not be present. Chair Yonkers asked First Selectwoman Julia Pemberton to discuss the BOS budget.
2. Discussion of 2018-19 BOS, BOE, and Region 9 Budgets
First Selectwoman Pemberton discussed BOS budget. The budget was reduced and is slightly negative. BOS budget has a 0.05% decrease due to health insurance savings.
First Selectwoman Pemberton discussed the possibility of reducing the money allocated for small grants and personnel reductions to bring the BOS budget down further. These reductions would affect services.
Mr. Mazzucco asked about employee wage increases. First Selectwoman Pemberton discussed the complexities of wage increases. Mr. Barickman asked about services. First Selectwoman Pemberton said that services won’t be affected unless more reductions are made. Mr. Miller asked about legal services. First Selectwoman Pemberton answered that the cost should remain the same. Mr. Dean commented that a 2.5% increase in budget would keep pace with the Consumer Price Index. First Selectwoman Pemberton discussed the consolidation of departments and savings due to that.
Jamie Barickman asked about the surplus. Mr. Gniadek said that expenses are tight, but revenue may be slightly higher than expenses. The conversation moved onto the unassigned fund balance.
Chair Yonkers brought up First Selectwoman Pemberton’s question about possibly reducing small grants. Mr. Mazzucco said this couldn’t be discussed until the BOE and the Region 9 budget are discussed.
Chair Yonkers asked to discuss the Region 9 Budget. Cheryl Graziano of Deacon Abbott Road discussed the budget. Mr. Barickman was present at the Region 9 meeting and talked about possible cuts. Ms. Graziano mentioned cuts that have been confirmed.
Mr. Dean asked about demographic shifts and Redding’s share of the Region 9 budget. Mr. Barickman discussed the 2007-2008 budget and Easton. First Selectwoman Pemberton mentioned her experience on Region 9 at that time. Ms. Graziano answered that the nature of the courses determines how important they are, not necessarily the total number of students at the school.
Ms. Clark asked for clarification about special education costs. Mr. Dean discussed cost per student increases due to demographic shifts.
Chair Yonkers asked to move onto the BOE budget. Mr. Mazzucco received a message from Dr. McMorran about the progress on the new BOE budget. The board decided to discuss this later in the meeting.
Mr. Mazzucco recommended keeping public comment on the short side. Chair Yonkers suggested moving onto unresolved issues from the last meeting.
3. Deliberation of Revised Consolidated Budget
Chair Yonkers asked about using money from the Debt Service Fund. Mr. Gniadek explained how this works. Chair Yonkers decided that a vote was unnecessary.
Chair Yonkers brought up modifying the tax collection rate to increase it to 99.25% as opposed to 99%. Mr. Gniadek responded to this. The board decided to put off this decision until after the BOE budget came in.
Mr. Gniadek went through the line items on the BOS budget. Chair Yonkers suggested moving onto the public comment.
4. Public Comment
Karen De Friesse of Mountain Road asked about the school audit and its completion. Steve Gniadek answered her question, saying the draft report will be available at the end of May.
Peter Bonfanti shared the budget number proposed by the BOE.
Dana Grey of Lamppost Drive asked about why Region 9 and BOE reduced their budgets but the Central Office budget was not reduced. Ms. Graziano and Chair Yonkers responded.
Amy Arnold of 17 Werf Drive stated that the town voted down misinformation and not the reality of the budget increase. She said Mr. Dean was trying to put the budget in perspective. She also said the BOE has had four years of budget reductions. Chair Yonkers responded.
Mark Lucas of Peaceable Street stated that Mr. Mazzucco said there was not much time for public comment and that whenever someone starts to speak, the discussion is ended.
Chair Yonkers asked for a modicum of civility. Mr. Dean stated that in any future vote, there should be a larger quantity and quality of public information.
Brenda Phelps of Indian Hill Road asked how much a vote costs to run. She also asked about putting referendum questions on future ballots. Chair Yonkers answered that the Town Clerk Michele Grande would have answers to that. Ms. Clark brought up that there was bias on both sides. Mr. Dean talked about a failure of communication.
Jeff Fligelman of Pocahontas Road asked about the Senior Tax Credit. Mr. Miller answered that there are no proposed changes. He also asked about the unassigned funds balance. Mr. Gniadek answered this.
Rick Ross of High Ridge Road asked Mr. Gniadek about the tax collection rate and what happens if it went down to 98% from 99%. Mr. Gniadek, Mr. Barickman, and Mr. Dean all responded.
Brenda Phelps of Indian Hill Road asked for a clarification of the tax collection rate. Mr. Dean, Mr. Mazzucco, and Mr. Gniadek answered.
Following the public comment, Chair Yonkers asked to put a hypothetical number in for the BOE budget so that deliberation could continue.
5. Deliberation of Revised Consolidated Budget (continued)
Chair Yonkers put out to discussion asking the BOS to consider cutting small grants. Deliberation followed.
Mr. Mazzucco made a motion to recommend the budget for the BOS. Mr. Dean seconded the motion. Chair Yonkers put it out to discussion. First Selectwoman Pemberton discussed the cost of grants.
Mr. Barickman did not want to vote on each budget individually as opposed to altogether. He talked about the difference between fixed and variable costs. Ms. Clark explained that healthcare and special education are mandated but manageable, as opposed to the demographics, which are fixed. Mr. Dean responded.
The discussion went back to BOS budget. Chair Yonkers asked to reduce another 0.45%. of the BOS budget. First Selectwoman Pemberton said personnel would have to be cut. Chair Yonkers changed 0.45% to 0.05%. The total decrease to the BOS budget would be 0.1%. First Selectwoman Pemberton said that was reasonable.
Jeff Fligelman told the board the BOE budget number came in. The number was $21,231,623 or a 2.31% increase. Chair Yonkers brought up the Region 9 budget. Their increase was 1.9%. The overall tax increase would be 2.63%.
Mr. Mazzucco motioned to withdraw the earlier motion of recommending the BOS budget.
Mr. Mazzucco motioned to approve a BOS budget of $14,738,761. Mr. Barickman seconded the motion. The board deliberated. The motion passed.
Chair Yonkers brought up the BOE budget of $21,231,623 (a 2.31% increase).
Mr. Dean made a motion to pass the BOE budget of $21,231,623. The board discussed this.
Melinda Irwin, Chair of BOE, explained the new BOE budget and maintaining Latin and Spanish.
Chair Yonkers motioned to approve the BOE Budget of $21,231,623 . Mr. Mazzucco opposed the motion. The motion passed.
Chair Yonkers motioned to approve the total budget, of $49,368,104. Mr. Mazzucco opposed. The motion passed.
Kate Alvarez of 40 Church Street commented on her role as a paraprofessional at John Read Middle School.
Jeff Fligelman of Pocahontas Road asked if this would be a 2.63% tax increase. The board responded.
On the motion of Chair Yonkers the Board voted unanimously to adjourn the meeting at 10:30 PM.