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Finance Committee 2/17/10

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

Our meeting for 2/10 was canceled by the snow-storm-that-missed-us.  Today was mostly about the Town Meeting warrant articles, with a few extras.

Our first hearing was the Vision 2020 (Jane Howard et al) and the DPW (Teresa DeBenedictis) asking for $15,000 for treatment for water bodies.  Back in 2006, Town Meeting (via home rule legislation in Article 24) created a special fund to manage water body expenditures.  The expenses are irregular – every 3-5 years there is a big sum.  Since then, the town has allocated $15,000 each year.  This year, they plan on expending $55,000 which would entirely drain the fund.  It was noted that the  Upper Mystic and Menotomy Park pond are done with private dollars; the $15,000 doesn’t cover all 7 water bodies.  After reviewing the details, the request was closer to $18,000.   There is unpredictability in the annual expense – but is there enough data to predict on the long term?  Yes on Spy Pond, but not enough data for the Res.  $150,000 every 10 years on Spy Pond is the rough number.  Donations were discussed, evidently received from all over town, with a cluster around Spy Pond.  Later in the meeting, we discussed and unanimously approved $15,000 for recommendation to Town Meeting. I was originally opposed to this special fund back in 2006, but it has exceeded my expectations.  I voted in favor of this recommendation.

The second hearing of the night was on an Uncle Sam market study.  Laurence McKinney spoke for several minutes.  He is asking for $2500 to do graphics and make some prototypes to put in stores.  Promises money back in 2 years with profit.  Did not have a budget or outline of how the money would be spent.  He was asked if he went to the Chamber of Commerce – he had not.  There was a later discussion about coordination of the various town tourist activities, and the article was tabled. I expect that I’ll be voting against any money in this area.  The pitch was all about seed money for tchotchkes.  Find a private investor!  If there’s profit here, great.  The town isn’t in the business of seeding businesses.

The third hearing was on restoration of trees on Summer Street by the rink.  Jeanne Leary spoke and provided before and after pictures of the trees.  Summer St reconstruction took the trees down.  Cut down 1000 treas in 2 days.  Now there is no barrier between rink/fields and neighbors.  She complained of two lit fields during spring/summer until 10pm and later, hockey rink until 1am. She reported multiple police complaints.  She has tried Sens. Havern, Marzilli, and Donnelly.  Rep Garballey tried and almost got $100,000.  She found $46,000 in trees that the contractor missed, but Park and Rec put them in McClennan instead of at the rink.  Some money has come from the Town Manager and DPW, but not enough.  CDBG said no.  So they are trying warrant article.  Town took the trees down – not state – so we can’t go after them.  We discussed this and there was hesitancy to set the precedent of FinComm involvement at this level.  We agreed to talk to the DPW and Town Manager, consider funding sources, and tabled it for now.

Al Tosti reported on community budget meetings.

Feb 22nd is next Budget and Revenue Task Force meeting.

Al reported there is a 5 year plan draft coming.  I was surprised to hear this.  This will be tough to do without a real plan to get into the GIC.  I’d been assuming that we’d do FY11 without a 5-year plan, and try again next year.

We reviewed the warrant in detail and identified articles that we wanted to have hearings.  Articles that might have interesting hearings:

  • Asking for home rule legislation to help get the unions to agree to the GIC
  • State law changes on pension funding might have big impact
  • Sale of schools – depends on School Committee.  It was noted that some people want to sell the schools and use the money to pay for this year’s operations.  That sounds totally insane to me – you just don’t use capital to fund expenses!  I hope that was just bad information.
  • We agreed to hear about changes to the dog rules.
  • We agreed to have a hearing about proposed changes to Selectman compensation
  • Vacation rollover.  If you need a vacation extension, who would approve it?  Maybe FinComm.
  • Minuteman.  There are many questions about the capital proposals.

We voted 5 committees and commissions – level funded.  Asked for more info on recycling.

We discussed the annual vote to increase pensions to 50% of the current position.  There are several questions about this that haven’t been raised in past years, and we’re investigating further.

Next meeting on Monday.


Pingback from Dan Dunn’s Podium » Finance Committee 9/22/10
Time: September 23, 2010, 12:50 am

[…] generally short and light on content.  This year was much more full as the first topic was the school budget overrun.  I arrived about 5 minutes late, and it had already started.  I noted that 4 school committee […]