DATE: Tuesday, April 5, 2016
PRESENT: Mona Colton, Matt Corron, Dave Larkin, Patty Haskins, George Debon – Moderator, and approximately 50 town residents
Agenda: Special budget discussion moderated by George Deblon
George called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. Pledge of Allegiance. George reviewed the following key points:
- This is not a “Town Meeting”
- The “Town Meeting” to vote on the budget is Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. in the Town Hall
- Purpose of this meeting is to hear concerns from registered voters
- Concerns and/or questions to be directed at a position not a person
- Reminders on Blood Drive April 6 and Green-Up day May 7
- Went through budget by sections
Ray Colton raised questions and concerns about Town Clerk Fees; refuse budget; tax sales; maintenance projects for Town Hall; Sand Shed maintenance; Town Clerk & Town Treasurer positions, health insurance, hours open and hours worked; Road Foreman wage comparison; additional duties of Town Clerk/Treasurer; Town Officer mileage; numerous comparisons to the Town of Stockbridge.
Joyce Stevens raised questions and concerns about photo copy fees; refuse budget; Sheriff budget; Ambulance fee and agreement; Rutland County tax; Stagecoach fee; Town Office building maintenance; maintenance projects for Town Hall; $19,000 budgeted for Town Hall outside wall; insulation project; Parks & Grounds $800 Labor increase; copier lease; large across the board salary increases for all except Select Board; health insurance for Town Clerk; custodial position; diesel; Town Clerk posted hours compared to hours worked; retirement fund; bridge #11; vehicle repair budget lines.
Charles Piso, Sue Wuerthele asked about Ambulance fee (WRVA). Greg Martin and Mark Begin commented WRVA may be required. As the past WRVA representative Mona believes it is not required and will look into this further.
Andy Hawley raised questions and concerns about the Sheriff budget and duties; advertising; and Town Officer mileage. Cathy Cappeta commented the number of hours in the Sheriff’s contract does not change behavior. Bridgewater’s patrol coverage does change behavior. Nancy Blessing asked about the Sheriff and Labor for Parks and Grounds. Doug Johnstone suggests striking the Sheriff line from the budget. The $5,000 budget line is the same as 2015 budget. Mona has already contacted the Sheriff’s office and canceled contract as the town budget did not pass.
Mark Begin and Arline Drugonis also questioned $19,000 voted on last year for Town Hall maintenance, believed to be specific for one wall, being used for insulation project instead. Doug Johnstone explained there is a plan for each wall to avoid the huge cost of replacing the building. The insulation project was done for several reasons and it was necessary; all the items still need to be done. Cathy Cappeta also suggests continuing the plan for maintaining the Town Hall rather than needing to replace it all at once. Wendy Reese shared the Contractor used for the Town Hall insulation project was the lowest bidder using Efficiency Vermont rebates. They were the only contractor who bid on the project qualified for Efficiency Vermont rebates.
Don Bass raised questions and concerns about NEMRC fees; health insurance for town employees; recreation fund; liquid chloride; and the chloride spreader. The Board explained the Road Foreman gets health insurance benefit and it has to be extended to any employee working 30 or more hours. Erica Hurd inquired if there are standard health insurance plans to choose from. Yes there are several to choose from, this one was comparable to what the Road Foreman had before Vermont Health Connect was instituted. The Town Clerk declined taking the health plan in the past and this year the clerk decided to accept the benefit.
Jessica Fuster raised questions and concerns about large pay increases across the board; health insurance for town employees; and how does the HRA (health reimbursement account) work. Sarah Hunt commented merit wage increases at her place of employment were held at 2%. She also asked about a town organizational chart.
Mike Wuerthele commented wage increases need to be looked at in two ways – one is for merit and the other is to be competitive. An annual raise should be looked at separately from an increase to be competitive. Tyler Gugliotta commented the Town clerk has multiple job responsibilities. Our Road Foreman does it all, where Stockbridge has two employees. Jerry Drugonis commented we need to pay these people twice as much for all the work they do. Vern Haskins commented most people do not understand all that goes on in the Town Office, what is required of the position, how the workload has increased. The Select Board has put in a lot more hours than previous boards.
Sarah Gallagher commented the office has 18 posted hours for the public to come in to do business. Imperative the Clerk has uninterrupted time to accomplish required duties. The door is open. If insurance is offered to 30+ hour employees, then the Clerk is eligible. The Clerk works far beyond minimum hours. Karen Waterworth doubts anyone working for the town is overcompensated for the work they do, otherwise more people would be vying to fill open positions. The town clerk job is far different than a generation, a decade or even a year ago. Don Ziegler suggests the town consider a rate in the middle of the State’s average and median for the Town Clerk/Treasurer. Joyce Stevens suggests scaling back the increases; bring wages up gradually. Matt explained the Board decided to increase wages to be more competitive based on state averages as long as it did not increase the tax rate. The wage increases did not increase the tax rate.
Refuse - The only item for 2016 is Solid Waste fee of $6,050 that is set by the Alliance.
WRVA Ambulance fee - same as previous year, board thought it was required. Further research will be done.
Rutland County tax – required, non-negotiable.
Labor and some supply lines – some are higher than previous year actual because these items can fluctuate depending on what needs to be accomplished, weather and other factors. Often times the full amount is not expended.
Office Equipment - In an effort to make expenses more transparent, some items have been split out, instead of one line the items are split into four lines.
Retirement Fund - is required by the state for any employee working 24 hours per week or more. The town puts in a percentage of the employee’s wage and the employee is required to contribute as well.
Organizational chart – Municipal Government is not the typical business pyramid with one person at the top that filters down through the layers. Government is horizontal with officials/departments working together and communicating but no one dictates what the other can or cannot do. Patty shared passage from the Select Board Handbook where it states each elected official’s duties are set by statute. Hours are set by the Clerk and works hours needed to do the job.
Additional Duties – The Town Clerk is the only official with regular office hours. The Select Board needs to communicate with many other groups that work during the day such as other government agencies, VLCT, TRORC, etc. These communications cannot happen at night so it goes through the clerk.
Bridge 11 - The bridge is on Tweed River Drive. The deck needs to be re-surfaced. Three bids were received averaging $91,000. The Road Foreman has submitted a grant where the town would pay 10%. Dave Colton cautioned roads in disrepair present a safety issue and should not be part of a vote. Ron Colton had a similar issue with his bridge 5 years ago and had it repaired for less however it may have had fewer holes than Bridge #11.
Office Hours – Hours are set by the Town Clerk per the statute. Most visitors to the office are attorneys, real estate agents, paralegals and others needing to do research and often times require assistance from the Clerks in locating materials. The door is open when the Clerk is working during non-posted hours.
Assistant Town Clerk/Treasurer – An Assistant is required by statute. A town’s government structure dictates how it has to operate. If there is a Town Manager or Administrator the structure is different. Both Stockbridge and Bethel have part-time assistants. An Assistant is important so someone else needs to know the job. Certain duties need to be separated per the State Auditors to avoid embezzlement with an annual questionnaire to verify the town is following proper procedure. This is designed to protect the town.
The Select Board will be meeting weekly on Tuesday for the next few weeks to work on a revised the budget. The meetings are open to the public.
Adjournment: Patty motioned to adjourn the meeting at 9:00 p.m.; Matt seconded; meeting adjourned.
Approved: April 19, 2016 Recorded by: Tyna Gallagher