Back to Advisory Committee Minutes
November 30, 2010 Meeting Minutes
Hingham Town Hall
Present: Committee Members Manning, Asher, MacCune, Dwyer, Eldredge, Friedman, Innis, Johnson, Marwill, O'Meara, Power, Pyles
1. Call to order
Chair Jack Manning called the Advisory Committee meeting to order at 7:31 PM.
2. Resignation of Andy Mooradian
Jack informed the Committee that Andy Mooradian had resigned from the Committee effective today.
3. Approval of Minutes
There was a brief discussion of how much detail should be included in the minutes after which the Committee voted to approve the minutes of the October 28, 2010 meeting, as amended, with Dennis Friedman voting "No".
4. Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Books
Ted Alexiades walked through the budget books. Ted noted that the Town had identified $150,000 of additional revenue from new growth that was not reflected in the forecast. Ted also noted that he had modified his previous estimates related to expected decreases in state aid. Specifically, the forecast reflects a 5% reduction in Chapter 70 state aid as opposed to a previous estimate of a 15% reduction. As a result of the increase in new growth and the revised estimate of state aid, Ted reported that he is forecasting an additional $500,000 in revenue for 2012.
Ted noted that most Town departments submitted level services budgets that also achieved level funding or less. The starting point (i.e., level funded) for the schools was $36,426,176 which represents $35,465,176 as appropriated by Town Meeting and $961,000 of federal stimulus funds which will be replaced by state aid in 2012. Ted also noted that the school budget included 2% wage inflation, but did not yet include step increases.
Ted noted that some departments have proposed some additional spending, e.g., new initiatives or deferred maintenance, which will be discussed further as the budget season progresses.
Other matters discussed include the status of the regional dispatch initiative and a projected surplus for 2011 of $1.1 million due to higher than expected new growth of $150,000 and higher state aid of $948,000. Ted also noted that 2011 "looks good" based on his review of first quarter results.
Ted also informed the committee that in developing the 2012 budget, certain 2011 budget categories and line items were reclassified, principally due to reorganization of certain departments and functions.
Some the members requested further explanation of the $2.2 million transferred to fund balance as a result of operating efficiencies and other savings in Fiscal Year 2010. Due to time limitations, this discussion was deferred to the next meeting of the Committee.
5. Reserve Fund Transfer
After a brief discussion, the Committee voted unanimously to approve a reserve fund transfer to the Police Department in the amount of $7,485 to fund the MicroSystems contract for the period from 1/1/11 to 6/30/11.
6. Warrant Articles
Town Meeting Speaking Limits: After a brief discussion, the Committee voted unanimously to approve a warrant article to reduce time limits for speakers at Town Meeting. Several members expressed their hope that the Town Moderator would use his authority to extend the limits when appropriate for complicated matters warranting more detailed explanations and that the AdCom comment on the Article should make this point clear.
Light Plant Receipts: After a brief discussion, the Committee voted 9-2 (Karen Johnson and Dan Dwyer dissenting) to approve a warrant article to authorize the transfer of funds to the Hingham Municipal Lighting Plant. Karen and Dan expressed concern that the language of the Article lacked sufficient clarity.
Meals Tax Stabilization Fund: After a brief discussion, the Committee declined to vote on this article. Karen Johnson expressed concern over the narrow focus of the article which concern was shared by other AdCom members as well. Several members expressed a desire to better understand the mechanics of how the stabilization fund will work.
LWV By-Law Change: The League of Women Voters presented a proposed warrant article to amend the Town by-laws to encourage earlier and more efficient information dissemination concerning warrant articles. The proposed Article was presented on behalf of the League by Kate Boland. Proposed by-law amendments include a requirement that articles be submitted to the Selectmen in a form that includes the complete text of the Article, that a representative of the parties submitting warrant articles be identified by name and that proposed warrant articles be posted by the Selectmen no more than 10 days after the closing of the warrant on January 20th of each year. The Committee welcomed the effort to make the warrant article process more efficient. Some members wanted clarification that the proposed rules did not contradict certain statutory requirements such as those that must be followed for zoning articles. Upon completion of the discussion, the Committee voted unanimously to approve the proposed Article.
Advisory Committee comments for the Articles approved above will be drafted and presented to the committee at a future date at which time the Articles will be re-voted.
7. Hersey House
The Committee engaged in a discussion of the future sale of the Hersey House property and what limitations there might be on the use of any proceeds from such sale. In particular, it was noted that the 1997 Town Meeting vote to authorize the disposition of the property included instructions that proceeds be used for the purposes of converting Central Junior High into Town Hall. It was agreed that this matter should be brought to the attention of the Board of Selectmen. Laura Marwill will speak to the Selectmen and report back to the AdCom.
8. Liaison Roles
In response to questions from members of the Committee, Jack offered his thoughts on the role of department liaisons. Jack suggested that the process of discussing the budget with departments should start in December. Jon Asher referred members to the AdCom handbook for guidance.
There was also a brief discussion of the protocol for voting on the budget and the consensus was that votes would be deferred until all budgets had been heard.
9. Questions from the Public
There was a discussion on the various approaches the Committee could take with respect to soliciting and addressing questions from the public and there was consensus that the School Committee's model of soliciting questions in writing prior to the beginning of the meeting seemed workable. At the conclusion of the discussion, the Committee voted unanimously to allow questions from the public and that future agendas will include a section for questions from the public.
10. Update from Liaisons
Jack solicited updates from department liaisons on any matters warranting Committee attention and none were reported.
11. Televising AdCom Meetings
Mary Power presented the results of a survey she conducted of the benchmark communities with respect to the televising of AdCom meetings and noted there was great diversity among the responses. The Committee members generally agreed that greater access to AdCom meetings was desirable, but some expressed concerns that the presence of television cameras might stifle frank discussion and debate or might cause some members to grandstand. Jack noted that he spoke with 8 former AdCom chairs and noted that 3 were opposed to televising meetings and 5 were in favor, but with reservations, principally due to the risk that discussions might be inhibited. It was also noted that a current decision to televise meetings would have implications for future AdComs as well.
Members of the School Committee and School Department who were present shared their thoughts and noted that the School Committee had voted to televise selected meetings, primarily because not all the locations where School Committee meetings are held are wired for broadcast.
It was agreed by the Committee members present to defer further discussion and vote to a later meeting.
12. Open Forum
Jack solicited input on any matters of interest to the members present that were not on the agenda. None were noted.
13. Next Meeting
The next meeting of the AdCom is scheduled for December 14th, 2010 at 7:30 PM.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:08 PM.
Greg MacCune, Secretary