Back to Advisory Committee Minutes
September 28, 2010 Meeting Minutes
Hingham Town Hall
Present: Committee Members Manning, Asher, MacCune, Dwyer, Eldredge, Ellison, Farrell, Friedman, Innis, Johnson, Marwill, O’Meara, Power, Pyles
1. Call to order
Chair Jack Manning called the Advisory Committee meeting to order at 7:34 PM.
2. Discussion of Forecast
Ted Alexiades, Town Finance Director and Interim Town Administrator, introduced the first iteration of the Five Year Forecast that begins with FY 2012. Ted noted that the FY 2011 budget as presented in the forecast document reflected a projected surplus of $870,000, primarily the result of additional state aid of $900,000. Ted noted that none of the FY 2011 state aid had been received to date, but that the first payment is due September 30, 2010. Ted expressed concern that if the state budget situation did not improve or deteriorated further, cuts to state aid would be possible, perhaps even likely for the March 2011 and June 2011 payments. It was noted that the results of the November 2010 State elections could have a significant impact on the availability of state aid.
With respect to the 2012 forecast, there was a discussion of certain assumptions used. In particular, it was noted that projections for new growth as tracked via building permits were lagging past years and that the forecast amount for 2012 was optimistic. This led to a further discussion of the trend of local receipts including excise taxes.
There was also a discussion of the proposed development of the South Shore Hospital Bone and Muscle Center and whether that property would stay on the tax rolls or be owned by the Hospital (a non-profit), in which case a payment in lieu of taxes would need to be negotiated. It was noted that the developer intended to continue to own the property, thus keeping it taxable. Ted reminded the committee that even if the property were to become tax-exempt, it would not reduce the Town’s levy capacity, it would only shift additional tax burden onto the other property owners in town.
Some Committee members expressed concern that other forecast assumptions seemed “soft,” including a very optimistic forecast for interest income and the exclusion of contractual step increases from the expense line items. Ted noted that step increases had historically been excluded from the forecast.
Ted also noted that the forecast did not consider certain expected reductions in expenses that were likely to be realized but were not accurately quantifiable at this time. These include potential savings from the regional dispatch center and the renegotiated SEMASS contract.
The Committee discussed what overall budget guidance should be given to the departments in consideration of the forecast as presented and the uncertainty inherent in the assumptions. Ted recommended asking the departments to prepare budgets that reflect level services compared to FY 2011 and a 2% reduction from FY 2011 funding. A level-funded budget is also being considered. The Committee will continue this discussion at a future meeting.
3. Liaison Assignments
Jack noted that a revised list of assignments had been issued.
4. Debt Service
There was discussion as to whether the Lincoln School Apartments should be included in the debt service schedules presented to the Committee. It was concluded that such debt service should not be included, and Ted was instructed to remove the Lincoln School Apartments from future schedules.
5. School Building Update
Greg MacCune updated the Committee on a meeting he attended with members of the School Administration, School Committee, other Town officials and representatives of the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The purpose of the meeting was to initiate a dialogue between the Town and the MSBA regarding the Middle School. The MSBA went over its process and discussed its financial status and the potential impact that a sales tax rollback would have on the MSBA’s ability to fund projects. The Town’s representatives discussed the condition of the Middle School, especially in the context of current and projected enrollment, and the need for some action in the near future. Options discussed included repairs to or renovation of the existing facility or construction of a new school. The MSBA agreed to visit the Middle School to get a first-hand perspective of the condition of the facility. That visit has taken place. It was noted that the Town is in the very early stages of a lengthy process.
6. Executive Session
At 8:42 PM, by a unanimous roll-call vote of the Committee members present, the Committee entered into executive session to discuss pending litigation involving the Town.
At 9:16 PM, by a unanimous roll-call vote of the Committee members present, the Committee returned to open session to continue the agenda as posted.
7. Update on School Enrollment
Amy Farrell provided a schedule of current enrollment and class size at the schools and described the impact of recent budgets on class size.
8. Next Meeting
The next regular meeting of the Committee is scheduled for 7:30 PM on October 5, 2010.
There will also be a meeting at 7:00 PM on September 30, 2010 which will be an Executive Session with the Board of Selectman, the Personnel Board and representatives of the School Committee and School Administration to discuss collective bargaining strategies.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:00 PM.
Greg MacCune, Secretary