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Finance Committee Nearing FY08 Wrapup

(Black text is mostly objective, red text is mostly subjective in nature.)

Attendance was a bit low tonight, and we started a few minutes late waiting for a quorum. When we started, it was with Personnel Director Caryn Malloy who went over the pay and classification changes in Article 41. Some of the changes are in title only. Some of the changes were anticipated previously and the cost increases were included in the existing budget. Some of them will result in lower salaries in the future, but not until the current job holder retires. Some changes come about when the current job holder asks for a reclassification. One of them is a pay grade determined by town meeting, but paid by CDBGrant funds. There was a last-minute change to a position in the Selectmen’s office creating an Office Manager position.

The ones that generate a stir are the unanticipated ones – the budget has one number, but the reclassification generates a new, higher number. There were a number of questions about a particular position in the DPW department that appeared to be jumping up 2 grades, and the funding explanation referred to a vacant position that wasn’t at all clear. There is pressure to get the budget done so it can go to print. The original motion was to approve the position and revisit if investigation reveals an issue. I made an amendment to change the default choice: strike the position from the motion, and let the investigation bring it back. By a vote of 11-1 the DPW position change was removed. The amended recommendation was approved unanimously.

I think Malloy does a good job in general. If you look at the 15ish changes in the plan, almost all of them are good calls. There are another dozen changes that she’s rejected that we don’t even see. From what I know, those are also good calls. This particular DPW recommendation ran into trouble because it’s different. This isn’t just a classification change. This is a change in the department structure. Also, this is a department going through a leadership change. It’s not clear that we should be bumping someone up two pay grades into a position that reports to the director without the new director’s consideration and without articulating how we’re funding it and why. Last, but certainly not least, Town Meeting asks questions. If we can’t understand the change, we can’t explain it at Town Meeting. I’m not going to vote for an appropriation that I can’t explain in some reasonable way.

The Recreation budget was approved as written. I’m persuaded by Director Connelly. I think he can turn the deficit around.

The Veteran’s Rink budget was next. I reiterated my dissatisfaction with the current situation. Another year has passed since I first asked the question, and there is still no plan for the rink’s capital needs. The director agrees that the rink’s revenues cannot support the costs. The budget was approved by a vote of 7-4 with 1 abstention. 7 votes may be the fewest votes I’ve seen in my (limited) FinCom experience. The issue will really come to a head when the capital request comes to a vote. It may come even sooner if someone asks to see a copy of the contract and neither the town nor the state can provide one.

The postage budget was corrected, increasing it by $15k. The Redevelopment Board budget was corrected, increasing it by $9.5k.

The committee voted unanimously to endorse Article 18. This article moves the IT department from the comptroller to the town manager. I’m excited by yet another step in the right direction. I’ve been working on this for years, and this article is a big step forward. At this point, the question is how many selectmen will vote for it, and how many members of Town Meeting.

There was a discussion of maintenance of town buildings. How can we prevent the decay we’ve seen in other town structures? What can we do to encourage/enforce cost effective maitenance procedures?

It was noted that the manager is withdrawing Article 28 which FinCom had voted against.

Finally it was Article 51, the George St. sidewalk. The current plan is to build this sidewalk by Dallin using donated land and the DPW’s existing sidewalk fund. I moved to approve the plan with $0 appropriation and with the caveat that the land be donated (not eminent domain taking). The motion passed 10-2. I’m kicking myself a bit on this one. I didn’t mean to make a controversial proposal. I confess that I was itchy to get the meeting over with, and I think I rushed it a bit. In retrospect, I would have made a motion that said the DPW can set the schedule. Since there is no appropriation, there is no real need for FinCom to take a position. We could have just nodded and said “yes, let it happen in due course.” As it is, we more said “yes, make it happen.” I regret that I stepped on a few toes that I didn’t need to.


Pingback from Dan Dunn’s Podium » Finance Committee Completes Report
Time: April 12, 2007, 1:25 am

[…] FinCom received additional information and voted to approve the DPW position change that had been removed on Monday. […]

Pingback from Dan Dunn’s Podium » Finance Committee on Veteran’s Rink
Time: May 3, 2007, 1:57 am

[…] FinComm met at 7:30 and heard an update to the Veteran’s Rink budget. It wasn’t a big change, just a forgotten line item that we talked about but hadn’t included in the sheet. I voted against the budget as I had last month. The budget ignores the capital needs of the rink. The rink needs a plan to cover the capital issues. The first time we voted, it passed only 7-5. This time I was the only person to vote against it. It’s funny the way votes work sometimes. […]

Pingback from Dan Dunn’s Podium » Finance Committee – Capital and Budgets
Time: March 5, 2008, 2:18 am

[…] There was an extensive discussion of the projected costs of the Veteran’s Rink. The Manager still has not come up with a plan for the rink. […]