Back to Board of Selectmen Meeting Minutes
March 11, 2010
Regular session 7:00 pm
Ms. Burns, Mr. Rabuffo, Mr. Riley
Community Preservation Surcharge Reduction
Mr. Reeves said he wished to put the question of a reduction to the surcharge on the ballot for the town election in order to put the Community Preservation Surcharge to sleep. He said this is significant money to residents who are not working. Mr. Riley said this provides a means to an end. There is open space, historical preservation and affordable housing and without the surtax none of these desired items could be achieved. Mr. Rabuffo noted that the Committee did not spend all available funds this year in demonstration of how sensitive they are to how money is spent. Ms. Burns said generally if people are unhappy about things in town the Board hears about it and she has not. She does not think people are unhappy about it.
Voted - to not support the reduction of the Community Preservation Surcharge
The Board declined to put question about reducing the Community Preservation Surcharge on the ballot.
Naming Policy Development Committee
Mr. Costello reported that the Committee had worked well and it was the group’s position to treat this issue cautiously. The proposed by-law requires that a public building or public land should be named by vote of town meeting. Proposed naming should be submitted to the Board of Selectmen who would than hold a public hearing on the matter. There is a phrase in section 3 of the proposed by-law that states there should be no renaming except under unusual circumstances. Mr. Costello said the point was to leave what had been named, named. The sentiment was that the Town would discourage renaming except under very unusual circumstances. The Board thanked the Committee for the work.
Vote d - to support the By-law for the Naming of Public Buildings and Public Grounds as written.
Voted - to publicly thank the committee for taking on such a difficult task and coming to a decision quickly.
Iron Horse Parking Lot Non exclusive lease
Mr. Bonn said that his marina on the inner harbor suffers from a lack of adequate parking. His proposal is to lease 19 non-exclusive parking spaces from the Town. He said if the effort to lease these spots is successful it would allow the 8 dedicated parking spaces on his property to be used for commercial uses within the building. Mr. Bonn submitted financials to demonstrate the increased revenue to the Town under this proposal. This public private partnership would allow the building to be leased to a commercial enterprise – a marine retailer. Mr. Bonn noted that the Town could expect partnership- like behavior from him. Ms. Shultz said that Mr. Toomey had written opinion letter that the lease of parking spaces would be consistent with the Article 97 restrictions and the regulation surrounding the boat ramp. Use of the property would have to be reviewed by the Planning Board and would allow application for a special permit. If the license goes forward and the zoning does not change they would seek the appropriate zoning relief. This means there would be Town regulatory review.
Mr. Rabuffo asked if there would be construction work contemplated to get the parking spots. Mr. Riley said there was a sense that this might be a means to the end of making the harbor more vibrant. In terms of the existing building the eight parking spaces would work with the pre-existing waiver for two spaces. This will allow better commercial use and bring life to the harbor.
Voted - to support the article authorizing the Board of Selectmen to enter into a non-exclusive lease of certain parking spaces in the parking lot near the Iron Horse.
False Alarm By-laws
The proposed revisions to the by-law remove a considerable amount of the revenue that would have been generated by the by-law as originally written. Chief Mills said the police department expends a great deal of energy and resources in responding to an emergency false alarm. He said that the police answer five or six false alarms per day, The Chief reported that, nationally, about 99% of the alarms are false; in Hingham about 97% of the alarms are false. Ms. Burns pointed out that there is a cost to the registration of these alarms. She suggested a registration fee for commercial ventures and not residential. The reality is that there is a cost related to responding to these alarms. The chief explained that if there is a false alarm the residents are apologetic; this does not tend to be the case in commercial false alarms. The service required for commercial alarms is greater than that required by residential alarms. Mr. Rabuffo would like to see some data to show how much more costly these things are.
Voted - to support the False Alarm By-law as amended and investigate the possibility of adding a commercial registration fee.
Discussion and Deliberation on School Budget
The School Committee voted Monday to recommend a level funded budget. Ms. Smith said the budget, as voted, is a level funded budget plus the revolving fund changes. Mr. Rabuffo noted this has not been an easy process but we have come a long way and the gap has been closed to a manageable number. The gap is somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000. He said on the other side general government took a 2% cut with the same upward pressures. He remarked that no one likes to make the decisions that have to be make, but we do have to make them. Mr. Rabuffo said it would be better to entertain smaller amounts this year because there is the Middle School issue and labor negotiations and the Town needs to prepare for that. Based on the deliberations Mr. Rabuffo said he would end up at Scenario 3, a $250,000 cut from level funded. He said he had been at Scenario 4 but the population is increasing. Mr. Riley said that he would like to hear from Advisory as to the discussions they had on the school budget. He has not decided and would like to wait until he hears more discussion.
Ms. Burns said she is glad that people have taken time to participate in the process. The scenarios range from a reduction of $52,683 to a reduction of $352,683. These are based on the Selectmen’s goal to add to fund balance. Ms. Burns said she supports a budget of Scenario 1. The total funding proposal funds post employment benefits; uses recurring revenues to pay for capital; allows $100,000 to fall to the bottom line; and provides tax relief. This meets all the goals and provides adequate services on the town side. Everything beyond this will result in teacher layoffs and increase unemployment. Ms. Burns said there does not need to be uniformity of cut across the board. That was not done on the town side. The school population has increased at a significant rate and is increasing at 4 times the rate of the regular population growth. The pressures are greater on the school side because of this.
Mr. Riley requested to hear the recommendation of the Education subcommittee. Mr. Seelen said the Advisory Committee has four liaisons to the school budget. There is a majority and minority report because they could not come to consensus. Mr. Friedman reported for the majority of the school liaisons reached the conclusion to recommend Scenario 3 which puts $300,000 into fund balance and is a 0.69% reduction to budget. It was felt there was a need for adding $300,000 to fund balance due to the uncertainty of what was coming. There are additional fees built into the revenue projections, reduced capital expenditures, etc. It was felt there was a need for a balanced approach for both the school and general government sides of the budget. The school budget is as large or larger as all the other budgets combined. There was a 2% overall reduction on the municipal side. It will be up to the School Committee to make decisions as to where the cuts can be made. He said the cut being recommended is for things that should never have been there to begin with – these things are not sustainable and were not sustainable to begin with. The recommended structure would be sustainable for the future.
Ms. Farrell said everyone agreed that Advisory as a whole would have to vote a number. It is not Advisory Committee role to determine the details of that number. It would not be appropriate to recommend something more than a level funded budget. The proposed budget has funded OPEB, it has funded capital from operating and there will be money added to fund balance. The Reserve Fund for this fiscal year was funded at a significantly higher amount than in previous years. It is conceivable that there will be money available to drop to fund balance. The School Committee voted to absorb the employee health care costs related to Kids in Action and that will make it fully self funded. Ms. Farrell said she is concerned that we have contracted the budget to a point where there is no room left for any other options - it is cut to the bone. The School Committee absorbed cuts to reduce the override to $1.1 million. The Special Education budget will increase and that accounts for over 25% of their budget. In order to offset some of the impact they revisited some of the fees charged to school populace. There will be increased fees from athletic activities, etc. It is unrealistic to expect another $200,000 in revenues. The cost per pupil is below the median. Ms. Farrell said the School Department is a well managed department and the money is being spent fairly wisely.
Mr. Riley said he wanted to keep an open mind and he was part of a team of three that drew down fund balance. He said the Board worked with departments when things were at a higher level and now was the time to be fiscally responsible and have a good police department, a good fire department and a great school system. Mr. Riley said the Town would like to see responsibility in respect to the budgets this year.
Mr. Rabuffo made a motion that the Board recommend a school budget of $35,265,170.
Ms. Burns offered an amendment to recommend a budget of $35,465,170. The proposed amendment was not seconded.
Voted - to recommend a school budget of $35,265,170. Two in favor, Ms. Burns opposed.
Ms. Burns said the estimated revenue from the local option meals tax would be about $225,000. She said that she would be recommending this excise in this year, regardless of the budget situation. At this point the money is not needed to fill the gap as had been previously anticipated. Ms. Burns noted that she would not want to adopt this tax and have it just go into the General Fund but rather she would recommend that it be put the funds into stabilization funds such as snow and ice and special education to minimize destabilizing effects on the budget. She remarked that some Advisory Committee members feel this would be a good vehicle for fund balance.
Voted - to support the restaurant tax with the intent to earmark the money towards the creation of a stabilization fund yet to be determined.
Voted - to withdraw the stabilization fund articles
Voted - to appoint Dorothy Maganaro to the Beautification Commission to fill an unexpired term ending in 2011
Voted - to send a letter supporting the Trustees of Reservations grant application for the culvert at Worlds End.
Selectmen/Town Administrator Reports
Mr. Paicos said a questioned had been raised at a previous meeting as to whether the police were taping outgoing calls. Mr. Paicos looked into the matter and found that only the detectives’ outgoing calls get taped. No other outgoing calls are taped.
Mr. Paicos reported that Jay McGrail had recommended a 5 year lease contract for a Lawnmower for Carlson field. The most recent information on local aid indicates it is likely that there will be a 5% cut for fiscal 2011. The Governor will be coming to Town Hall on Sunday for the Senior Center’s 40th anniversary concert. The Sewer project design effort is moving forward.
Mr. Riley met with representatives of Aquarion Water and suggested it is probably in Town’s best interest to have them in the room when discussing the water issues for connection to the MWRA.
Meeting adjourned 10:45 pm.
Betty Foley, Clerk