Back to Advisory Committee Minutes
December 14, 2010 Meeting Minutes
Hingham Town Hall
Present: Committee Members Manning, Asher, MacCune, Eldredge, Farrell, Friedman, Innis, Marwill, O'Meara, Power, Pyles
1. Call to order
Chair Jack Manning called the Advisory Committee meeting to order at 7:32 PM.
2. Update on AdCom Vacancy
Jack informed the Committee that a replacement for Andy Mooradian had yet to be identified. Mary Jane O'Meara would take over Andy's responsibilities with respect to the DPW budget.
3. Approval of Minutes
The minutes of the November 30, 2010 meeting were approved by a unanimous vote of the members present.
4. Introduction of the Incoming School Department Business Manager
Dr. Galo, Superintendent of Schools, introduced John Ferris, who was recently hired as School Department Business Manager, replacing David Killory who has announced his retirement.
5. Questions from the Public
Jack noted no questions had been received in advance of the meeting and none were put forth by members of the public in attendance.
6. Update on Budget Process
Ted Alexiades informed the Committee that the Selectmen had completed most of the budget hearings for the Town departments. Ted noted that there have been no issues or surprises to date. DVDs were made to allow members who could not attend the hearings to view them at their leisure.
There was a brief discussion of the current projected FY 2012 budget gap of $2.2 million and the impact of possible state budget cuts. Ted reminded the Committee that the forecast included an assumed cut in state aid and that he did not believe a cut beyond that included in the forecast was likely. Ted also noted that there were still a number of variables to be addressed before the budget gap could be accurately quantified.
7. Discussion of the Fund Balance
In response to a request by the Committee, Ted provided background information with respect to the $4.6 million increase in Fund Balance as of the end of Fiscal 2010. The principal components of the increase included the bond premium ($1.9 million), Light Department transfer ($0.5 million) and operation efficiencies and other savings ($2.2 million), including approximately $1 million related to contributory group insurance, $0.4 million of unused reserve funds, $0.3 million of savings from public safety due to personnel turnover and less-than-budgeted overtime and $0.2 million in reduced debt service requirements. Ted noted that the $1.9M bond premium component would not permanently stay in the Fund Balance. The 'net' increase in Fund Balance, therefore, is $2.7M.
Some members inquired as to the timing of when these savings were identified and expressed concern that the FY 2011 budget process might have been more contentious than it needed to be. Ted noted that while some savings were known by him earlier than was communicated, he was, at the time, concerned that there was significant risk that other costs might be higher than budgeted and that forecasted revenues might not be realized.
8. Meals Tax Warrant Article
Dennis Friedman led a discussion on the mechanics of stabilization funds such as is being considered for the meal tax revenue. The Committee discussed whether the direction included in a stabilization fund article carried the force of law and it was concluded that it conveys the intent of Town Meeting, but does not bind the Town. There was also a discussion of how much meals tax revenue would be available to put in a stabilization fund and Ted noted that only first quarter receipts, scheduled to be paid to the Town in December 2010, would be known by the time the Warrant needed to be printed.
9. Hersey House
Laura Marwill reported on a discussion she had with Bruce Rabuffo, BOS Chair, on the language included in a 1997 Warrant Article authorizing the sale of Hersey House, but limiting the use of proceeds to costs related to the conversion of Central Junior High into Town Hall. Bruce told Laura that he believed the Town was not bound by the 1997 Article but he would talk to Jim Toomey, Town Counsel.
10. Future Meetings
Jack proposed a number of dates for meetings of the Committee to be held through the end of March 2011. After discussion, the following dates were tentatively agreed to:
January 11 and 25, 2011
February 1, 3, 8, 10, 15 and 17, 2011
March 1, 3, 8, 10, 15, 17, 22 and 24, 2011
All meetings will start at 7:00 PM. The dates and times are subject to change and meetings will only be held if there is business to be addressed by the Committee.
The Town Economic Summit is currently scheduled for January 30, 2011.
11. MSBA Letter
Dr. Galo updated the Committee on recent communication to the Town from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. It was noted the process was still in its preliminary stages and that MSBA was gathering information from the School Department. The next milestone in the process was the execution by the Town of a Certificate of Compliance which was due to MSBA by December 17, 2010. Dr. Galo stressed this was not a commitment by the Town, but merely acknowledgement of MSBA rules and an agreement to abide by them if MSBA funding is sought. Dr. Galo was hopeful that a meeting between MSBA and Town officials would be held in January 2011.
12. Televising AdCom Meetings
The Committee discussed the pros and cons of televising meetings. A straw poll was taken with no clear consensus. Jack proposed the members continue to think about the matter and plan to vote on it at the next meeting.
13. Discussion of Liaison Roles
Jack briefly summarized the responsibilities of the department liaisons in anticipation of upcoming budget presentations.
14. Open Forum
Mary Power introduced a "Budget Snapshot" document that she produced to provide context for budget discussions by considering Hingham vs. the traditional benchmark communities and by considering departmental budget trends. There was some discussion of dates used for certain benchmarks. It was noted that the date of the most recent data available was not consistent for all benchmarks. Dennis Friedman noted tax rates are not necessarily a valid benchmark because they ignore the underlying property value.
Jon Asher introduced spreadsheets he developed for tracking FY12 budget votes and Warrant article assignments/votes.
15. Next Meeting
The next meeting of the AdCom is scheduled for January 11th, 2011 at 7:00 PM.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:59 PM.
Greg MacCune, Secretary