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Code Red
January 24, 2005
Present:        Chris Carlin, Richard Crane, Paul Desmond Peter Fimognari, John Goodrich, Michael Laferriere, Bob Margerison, Maureen O’Sullivan, Peter Ross, Ann Lee (FinCom Admin. Asst.)

Also Present:   Deborah Mahar (Town Accountant), Gretchen Neggers (Town Administrator), Carol Woodbury (School Superintendent), Dorothy Jenkins (Town Collector), Ed Harrison, Donna Hall Adams (School Committee Liaison), Nicole Soucy (Journal reporter)

Absent:         Jim Pennington, Christine Edwards
The meeting was convened at 6:30 p.m.

A motion was made, seconded, and SO VOTED to accept the minutes of the 12/06/04 meeting as written.

A memo from Carol Woodbury, Superintendent of Schools, dated November 10, 2004, was received.  It documents the need for the schools’ warrant articles from the fall Special Town Meeting.
A letter from students of Mrs. Knight, 3rd grade teacher at Quarry Hill Community School, was received, inviting a FinCom member to speak to their class.  Mr. Carlin and Mr. Goodrich are available.  Ms. Lee will make the arrangements.
A memo received from the BOS requests all committee reports be submitted to the Selectmen’s office by 2-11-05, for printing in the 2004 Annual Town Report.
A copy of a memo from Deborah Mahar, Town Accountant, to Lisa Poulin, School Department, dated November 10, 2004, was received.  It details newly added accounts, which will give greater detail of the line items in the Transportation budget, provide more information and make reporting easier.
Two flyers were received from the School Department.  There will be three Strategic Plan Focus Groups meetings, all the same content, at GVMS on January 26, February 8, and March 29, 2005.  The focus is on the creation of a strategic long-range school district plan.  Paul Desmond said he would be available to attend the meeting.  There will be three FY06 Budget Development meetings at Hillside School, all the same content, on January 18, February1, and March 1, 2005.  The focus is on determining district spending priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.
A memo from the Association of Town Finance Committees, dated November 23, 2004, was received.  The new edition of The Finance Committee Handbook is available on CD.  Ms. Lee will request 12 CDs.  Mr. Margerison requested a hard copy be printed for him.
A memo from Gerald Paist, Pathfinder Regional Vocational-Technical High School, dated December 23, was received.  The Pathfinder Regional School Committee realizes the joint meeting traditionally held in February or March, to present a tentative budget, is not effective.  In the past, some towns were not represented, or miscommunication occurred between that meeting and the annual towns’ meetings.  This year, the Pathfinder School Committee is holding its budget meeting January 26, 2005 at 7:30 p.m.  A FinCom representative is invited.  Ms. Lee already responded to Pathfinder that Mr. Fimognari would attend.
A memo from Rebecca Jacobs, Chairperson of the Monson Master Plan Advisory Committee, dated December 15, 2005, was received.  The committee is exploring the option of the Community Preservation Act (CPA), believing it could provide funds needed to promote the “rural character” of Monson.  Towns may establish by local referendum a property tax surcharge of up to 3% to help fund protection of open space, preservation of historic buildings and sites, and creation of affordable housing.  The meeting was January 13, 2005 at 7 p.m. in the Town Office Building.
A memo from Gerald Paist, Pathfinder RVTHS, dated November 2, 2004, was received.  It summarizes Pathfinder’s October 1 enrollment and compares 2003 and 2004 enrollment numbers.  Monson’s 2003 enrollment was 93 and 2004 enrollment was 106, a 13 student increase.
A letter from James R. Johnson, Director of Accounts at MA Dept. Of Revenue, dated October 29, 2004, was received.  “Free cash”, as of July 1, 2004, is certified at $773,759.  The amount of available funds for the Trash Enterprise Fund is $101,555.  Ms. Neggers explained $65,000 of that “free cash” figure was appropriated at the November Special Town Meeting.
Three letters in support of the School Resource Officer were received:
a copy of a letter from Michelle Loglisci, Monson Public Schools Transportation Coordinator to Sgt. Stephen Kozloski, Monson Police Department
a copy of a letter from Carol Woodbury, Superintendent of Schools, to the Monson Board of Selectmen
a copy of a letter from Michael Barth, Assistant Principal, Monson High School, to Sgt. Kozloski
As this is the last year of this grant-funded position, the cost will have to be absorbed by the town.  A clause in the 3-year, $125,000 grant states that the town must fund the position for one additional year, or pay back the grant money.  The Selectmen support the SRO position.
A copy of a letter from Gretchen Neggers, Town Administrator, to Mark Hebert, Chairman, Monson School Committee, dated December 16, 2004, was received.  James Manning, Chairman BOS, has designated Richard Guertin, Selectman, to participate in school collective bargaining matters as a voting member of the school committee.  Mr. Hebert is to contact Mr. Guertin directly to arrange for Mr. Guertin’s participation.
A copy of a letter from Richard Guertin, Selectman, to Mark Hebert, Monson School Committee, dated December 29, 2004, was received.  Mr. Guertin acknowledged his designation as a voting member of the school committee pertaining to collective bargaining matters.
A memo from the Office of Campaign & Political Finance was received.  It explains M.G.L. Chapter 55, the Campaign Finance Law.  A copy is on file for review.
The January 2005 edition of The Beacon was received.  It is on file.


School Department Capital Improvement Plan: Copies of a memo from Carol Woodbury, Superintendent of Schools, to the Monson Board of Selectmen, dated December 16, 2004,were distributed.  It details the schools’ initial capital improvement recommendations in priority order.  Mr. Fimognari questioned if some listed needs, such as paint, should be included in the normal maintenance budget.  Mrs. Woodbury explained that because of the scope of such a project, it would be classified as a capital improvement.  Mr. Goodrich asked if guidelines for determining “capital” improvements existed, and if so, could a copy of such be shared with FinCom.  
Mr. Carlin stated this is the first Capital improvement plan FinCom has seen, and questioned Ms. Neggers as to the status of the Planning Committee recently established by Richard Guertin, Selectman.  Ms. Neggers explained she and Ms. Mahar gave Mr. Guertin necessary information, and he indicated it will take some time to get the committee functional.  Ms. Neggers added this is a Financial Planning Committee, not Capital, and a Capital Planning one may be needed.
Mr. Fimognari asked if there were any unexpected, necessary capital outlays needed.  Ms. Neggers replied there were 3 known: new garage doors for the Highway Department, a tanker for the Fire Department, and upgrading the fire escape at the Town Building.  Mr. Margerison asked if there is a cap on the dollar amount that defines a capital item.  Ms. Neggers explained that a few years ago, the Selectmen defined a capital expenditure as having a cost greater than $5,000, and a life expectancy greater than 5 years.  Technology is excluded from this category.  Mr. Carlin asked Ms. Neggers if there a schedule for the Financial Planning meetings.  There is not.

Long Range Financial Planning Committee Established by BOS:  A letter to Chris Carlin, Finance Committee Chairman, from Richard Guertin, Selectman, dated December 29, 2004, was received.  Mr. Guertin, Chair of this new the committee, asks for FinCom’s participation.  Mr. Ross and Mr. Margerison volunteered to participate.

Request for Copy of Monson’s Budget by Town of Acushnet, MA: A copy of a letter from the Finance Committee of Acushnet, MA to the BOS was received.  They requested to see a copy of Monson’s FY05 Town Budget.  Mr. Fimognari suggested we ask to see their budget.  Ms. Neggers will follow up on the request.

Highway Dept. Expenditure: An approval of expenditure by the Highway Dept. in excess of available appropriations, signed by the BOS on January 11, 2005, was received. Attached to it was a letter to Debi Mahar, Town Accountant, from John Morrell, Highway Surveyor, dated January 7.  Mr. Morrell estimated the account would have a negative balance of $22,000 to $25,000 after all current bills were paid and supplies restocked.  The BOS approved $100,000 for snow and ice removal, as allowed under MGL Chapter 44, Section 31D.  A motion was made, seconded, and SO VOTED to approve the request, which all present members signed.  Mr. Carlin asked Ms. Mahar if there was funds left in the account after the most recent snowstorm, which was the previous day.  Ms. Mahar stated the $100,000 provided a buffer.  Ms. Neggers added that as the Governor declared a State of Emergency for the previous day, Monson should be able to get financial relief from the state.  Mr. Morrell is submitting the appropriate paperwork to NEMA.

School Department Transportation Account: Mr. Fimognari asked Mrs. Woodbury if the transportation budget is still on target.  She replied, it is.  Mr. Margerison asked Mrs. Woodbury if sick time and personal time is figured into the bus/van drivers’ salary figures.  She explained drivers do not have sick time, have one personal day, and it is figured into the salary figure.

FY 06 Budgets Received from Town Departments: Each member received a copy of departmental budgets that have been received to this date.  There are a few not yet received.  Mr. Carlin reminded members of the dates available from now until ATM to discuss budgets with department heads.  Mr. Margerison suggested that if a department’s FY06 budget is the same as FY05, they need not be invited.  Only departments asking for increases should meet with FinCom to explain the necessity.  

Budget Discussion: Ms. Neggers offered to give an overview of mandatory accounts.  She explained the House 1 budget will be released January 26, at which time she will have accurate figures.  The following information is what she knows at this time.
Expected revenue increase       190,451 2.5% increase
                                120,000 new growth
                                310,451 total revenue increase

Expected expense increase               315,965 insurance, pension, Medicare
                                  45,000        School Resource Officer
                                  50,000        ambulance operating expense
                                100,000 snow and ice
                                510,965 expected expense increase

Additional funds, amounts unknown, will be needed for the Margaret Street Landfill project and contractual raises.  The landfill is an extensive project, and until excavation is done, we can not be sure what it will entail.  Ms. Neggers sees this as a recurring budget item for the next 8-10 years.  Union contracts for police, fire, and school departments expire June 30, 2005.  Any contractual salary increases will be additional expenses.

Mr. Crane suggested waiting two weeks, until House 1 has been released and its particulars are known, to discuss departmental budgets.  Mr. Goodrich agreed.  Ms. Neggers will share House 1 numbers at the Department Head meeting on January 26.  Mr. Ross felt that since we know the amount needed to fund FY06, the committee should decide how much Free Cash to use.  Mr. Fimognari stated that department heads need to be aware that any negotiated contractual raises must come from their budgets; additional money can not be raised at the STM.  Ms. O’Sullivan asked if the School Department’s share of insurance is a line item.  Mrs. Woodbury explained it is part of net school spending.  Ms. Neggers recommended that since there are no new contracts in place, budgets should be based on current salaries.  
Mr. Crane suggested a meeting on January 31.  Ms. Mahar reminded the committee that the Info-Share meeting is January 31 at 6 p.m.  Mr. Goodrich will attend Info Share and report its contents to FinCom at the February 7 meeting.

The next two scheduled meetings of the Finance Committee are January 31 and February 7, 2005 at 6:30 p.m. at the Town Accountant’s Office.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:15 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Ann M. Lee
Administrative Assistant to the Finance Committee