ANNUAL TOWN MEETING & ANNUAL BUDGET MEETING
MAY 17, 2010
First Selectwoman Derrylyn Gorski called the Annual Town Meeting & Annual Budget Meeting to order at 7:05 p.m. There were approximately 100 in attendance. First Selectwoman Gorski began the meeting by having everyone stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
The First Selectwoman called for nominations from the floor for a Moderator. There was a motion by Carol Goldberg, duly seconded by Stephen Squinto to nominate Bill Blake. There were no further nominations. Unanimous approval.
Janet Brunwin, Chairwoman of the Board of Finance was introduced by Moderator Blake. She then introduced the Board members. Chairwoman Brunwin gave an overview of the proposed budget. The recommended budget is less than a 1 percent increase. The Board is recommending a 2 per cent increase in the mill rate or .55. To balance the budget there will be a $100,000 transfer from the General Fund. Going into the current year, we have a zero increase in real estate – little to no building is being done. Overall revenues after the property tax is built in came to a .6 per cent increase year to year. Capital expenditures have been kept to a minimum. Roads are very costly to repair. We will take our time and fully analyze the condition of the roads. The top ten worst roads could cost several million dollars to repair. We could bond, increase future budgets. Right now we have increased the budget for road materials in order to invest and maintain what we have.
We will be limiting new capital projects. $25,000 will be placed in the Land Acquisition.
For the last few years we have been using money from the general fund to balance our budget – not something that can be done for a long period. The average tax increase per household will be $132 – many will be more, many less. That is the average. The state deficit affects all of our towns and could affect us next year. In lieu of potential reduced funding from the state, both school districts have initiated ways to cut back. The Board of Finance along with the Board of Selectmen and Highway Foreman will continue to work on a plan to improve the condition of the roads. Costs can only be reduced so much. It is important to increase the revenue line. But the rest needs to come from economic development and finding other sources such as grants.
Craig Stahl, 285 Wooding Hill Rd – I still believe the major roads have been under funded by $300,000 for the past 6 -7 years and the current budget is short by at least $300,000 - $350,000 in order to keep the roads in good condition. We are probably about $1,000,000 short. Bonding is a short term solution but that line item needs to be increased. Also, $51,000 has been reserved for negotiations for union employees. Last year the town employees took a zero increase. Of the nonunion town hall employees, is each getting an equal percentage increase to that of the union employees?
First Selectwoman Gorski – The medical plan is changing and the employees are being asked to make contributions. Depending on what happens with the union negotiations will depend on what happens with the nonunion employees.
Mr. Stahl asked again if every nonunion employee would get the same percentage increase and was told “yes” by Town Counsel and First Selectwoman Gorski.
John Paul Garcia, 153 Fairwood Rd – Thanked Chairwoman Brunwin and the Board of Finance for their hard work on the budget. If student enrollment has gone down 18 - 20% in the last few years it seems the costs have not gone down accordingly. Who is looking into this and when can we expect some report?
Chairwoman Brunwin – We have no say in what the Board of Ed presents to us. We only have the right to say yea or nay.
Betsey Thornquist, 25 Oak Ridge Dr – That decrease in the number of students from 600 to 449 was not all in one year. Could you explain why the special education costs have risen?
Superintendant Connellan – This is due in part because the Federal Government was supposed to have provided 40% of excess costs for Special Education and the support has never risen above 11%. Costs have continued to increase and grants have declined. The number of students with disabilities has also increased – it tends to go in cycles. The cost for special education is higher than for general education.
Art Slicer, 70 Lacey Rd – worked in Special Ed. Towns put out monies first and then they get reimbursed. The school needs to work it out.
Allene Kelly, 208 Schaffer Rd – The state has legislated 18% on late tax payments. It is a problem when there are people who cannot pay their taxes. They don’t have the money to pay their taxes and then they are faced with the double burden of paying high interest on their taxes.
Dick Van Horn, 86 Crestwood Rd – Park & Rec has an out of pocket cost of $52,000. I thought it was a practice of the Bd. of Finance in the past to hold the out of pocket cost to below $45,000.
Chairwoman Brunwin- We do try but this year we have increased the minimum wage for the camp counselors and that is a big part of it.
Patricia Winer, 7 Carrington Rd – I see on the revenue side there is no state contribution listed for Special Ed in the current year or next year. Does that account for part of the increase?
Chairwoman Brunwin - That is an accounting thing. We used to include it in our revenue and then give it to the Bd. of Ed but going forward to make it simpler we are just including it in the Bd. of Ed budget.
Bob Boynton, 15 Rolling Green Rd – I support the statement made earlier that the road resurfacing budget needs to double. Right now you are funding about one mile of road per year. We have 70 miles of road which means we need to do 2 to 3 miles per year but you propose a budget that only has money for 1 mile. This is a bond issue. There are two parts to the road repair - drainage and road surfacing. If you bond 8 miles worth of road repair you will contract out both the drainage and road surfacing. Basically 6 or 7 years of neglect means we will pay $400,000 to $500,000 needlessly because you will not bond. How do you justify that?
Stephen Squinto, 16 Coachmans La – Bd. of Finance member – Asked who in the room tonight would support putting $350,000 into this budget for roads. Approximately half the people in the room raised their hand. If the town supports it, we will do it. What does that mean to the per cent increase to the budget?
Chairwoman Brunwin - $300,000 is about 5 mills. So that would be roughly 20%.
Gerard Osgood, 270 Sperry Rd – I suggest patching to keep the costs down.
Richard Barnes, 534 Bethmour Rd – We should hold back on costs. Repairs should be done properly as well as to the drains. Complained about the way repairs are being done.
The chairwoman stated that repairs should be done properly but the meeting is to vote on the budget.
B. Thornquist – If union workers are going to get an increase and the town hall employees will begin to pay into their healthcare then they will not get a raise but will take a reduction in salary and that is unfair.
Chairwoman Brunwin agreed and stated that the town hall nonunion employees did not get any raises last year.
A. Kelly commented that this is our A.T.M and each of us has the opportunity to have our voices heard.
Sharon Huxley, 340 Old Mill Rd – Town hall employees work extremely hard. We cannot afford to lose these people and that is what will happen if we pretend that they’re not as valuable to us as any other human resource that works in this town. There is someone there to answer your questions and they know what they are talking about.
Stuart Morgenstern, 17 Fairwood Rd - Can’t we cut spending instead of increasing taxes? Come back with a 5% cut in the budget. I urge everyone here to vote no and have the finance committee come back with a lower budget
Jim Gugliotti, 18 Beacon Rd - We get quite a deal for our money. Cutting back will be a shortfall down the road. The Board does a tremendous job. We need a highway dept., services in the building and education for our children. Services aren’t free.
Brendon Rieger, 25 Old Fairwood Rd – Are we actually generating less waste in this town? Is it down because people are recycling more?
First Selectwoman Gorski -We are delivering less tonnage to CRRA. The percentage of recycling is actually down. The conventional wisdom is that people generate less trash in a recession because they are not buying as much.
Marsha Sawdon, 164 Hilldale Rd - Why put money into the Land Acquisition this year? At the budget hearing it was said that maybe we would put $10,000 in this year rather than $25,000.
Chairwoman Brunwin -We have been funding the Land Acquisition Fund. I think $100,000 was put in the fund over the last two years. At the budget hearing there was a lot of concern about not putting anything in. At a town meeting there can be a vote to decrease but not increase – that was the rationale in putting $25,000 into the Land fund.
Item (1) on call – RESOLVED: That the recommendations of the Board of Finance upon the Budget for fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010 amounting to $20,333,029 be, and hereby are accepted and approved.
S. Squinto – The funding for the road has been mentioned by several as inadequate. By a show of hands, it seems to me that a majority is favoring an increase. The Bd. of Finance needs to at least consider this but I’m not sure how to go about it.
Town Counsel McSherry – C.G.S. discusses how the budget needs to be prepared. It can be decreased but not increased. A special item like this can be increased in several ways. The budget can be voted down tonight and come back with another proposed budget that could bring an increase. The Bd. of Finance could ask for a Special Meeting to address a specific item - the roads, for example, put a specific number on the resolution and at a Special Town Meeting vote on that one item. You could propose borrowing the money, bonding or a special tax. No one wants a tax.
G. Osgood – What percentage will be allocated for repairs to the roads? It’s the cheapest preventative way to keep our roads in good condition.
B. Boynton - I will commit to voting for the budget if the road issue is separated out to be voted on at a special meeting.
First Selectwoman Gorski stated that she has consistently tried to put $400,000 - $450,000 into the budget for road repairs. Everyone agrees at the beginning of the budget process but in the end we try not to increase taxes – it is a big item. I have asked the Bd. of Finance along with the Highway Foreman to take a road trip down the top ten roads that need repairs. It is all a process and we will be doing this in a week or two. We will discuss it with our financial advisors as far as what is the best way to finance this. It will then go to a Special Town Meeting with options on how it can be done.
There were no further comments. The motion was called and duly seconded. Overwhelming yeas. Passed.
Item (2) on call – RESOLVED: that the Selectmen be, and hereby are authorized to expend from the Reserve Fund for Capital and Non-recurring Expenditures an amount up to the sum of $57,370 for the second of a three-year lease purchase of a dump truck by the Board of Selectmen for the Highway Department.
A.Kelly – wanted to know the size and type of the dump truck.
Highway Forman Green – stated that that information was given last year – the first year of the lease purchase.
There were no further comments. There was a motion to call the resolution to a vote. Overwhelming yeas. Passed.
Item (3) on call – RESOLVED: that the Selectmen be, and hereby are authorized to expend from the Reserve Fund for Capital and Non-recurring Expenditures an amount up to the sum of $62,800 for the fifth of five payments of a five-year lease purchase of a fire tanker truck and related equipment for use by the Bethany Volunteer Firemen’s Association.
A. Kelly – When will the town receive the deed to the small firehouse on Amity Road?
First Selectwoman Gorski stated that it will happen soon.
A. Green answered a question about the number of calls the fire department responds to. He said that there were approximately 450 calls per year - 25% fire calls, the other 75% medical calls.
B. Thornquist - keep conversation to the items we are discussing. If something else needs to be discussed it should be at the end – other items proper to come before the meeting.
There was no further discussion. A motion was made to call the resolution to a vote. Overwhelming yeas. Passed.
Item (4) on call – RESOLVED: that the Selectmen be, and hereby are authorized to expend from the Reserve Fund for Capital and Non-recurring Expenditures an amount up to the sum of $100,062 for the third of five payments of a five-year lease purchase of a fire pumper truck and related equipment for use by the Bethany Volunteer Firemen’s Association.
Dick Foley, 41 Pleasant Dr – Why vote down a lease agreement? We would be in default. The truck would be repossessed.
A motion was made to call the resolution. Overwhelming yeas. Passed.
Item (5) on call – RESOLVED: that the Selectmen be, and hereby are authorized to expend from the Reserve Fund for Capital and Non-recurring Expenditures an amount up to the sum of $59,879 for the second of three payments for breathing apparatus for use by the Bethany Volunteer Firemen’s Association.
There was no discussion. A motion to accept the resolution was made and duly seconded. Overwhelming yeas. Passed.
Item (6) on call – RESOLVED: that the Selectmen be, and hereby are authorized to expend from the Reserve Fund for Capital and Non-recurring Expenditures an amount up to the sum of $20,000 to replace smoke heads in Bethany Community School by the Board of Education.
A. Kelly – this item should have been in the Bd. of Ed budget not a separate line item.
There were no further comments. A motion was made and duly seconded to call the resolution to a vote. Overwhelming yeas. Passed.
Item (7) on call – RESOLVED: that the Selectmen be, and hereby are authorized to expend from the Reserve Fund for Capital and Non-recurring Expenditures an amount up to the sum of $5,000 for chimney repair to the Bethany Town Hall by the Board of Selectmen.
There was no discussion. A motion was made and duly seconded to call the resolution to a vote. Unanimous. Passed.
Item (8) on call – RESOLVED: that the Selectmen be, and hereby are authorized to expend from the Reserve Fund for Capital and Non-recurring Expenditures an amount up to the sum of $10,000 for Town Hall security system by the Board of Selectmen.
Carol Goldberg, 5 No. Humiston Dr – encouraged everyone not to let the resolution pass. Maybe we should wait another year to pass.
S. Huxley – Haven’t we paid for this more than once in our taxes?
Chairwoman Brunwin stated that there is a balance in the capital fund that this $10,000 will be added to.
First Selectwoman Gorski – Certain doors will be keyed. We will have a little more control over who is coming in and out of town hall rather than an alarm system because too many people would have to know how to operate it.
S. Huxley commented that her point was that we have already paid for a system in the past and why are we doing it again.
D. Van Horn – How can you use a previous appropriation and apply it for something else? Chairwoman Brunwin said it is still being used for town hall security.
A. Slicer – it was appropriated for security and didn’t get spent. The insurance will be renegotiating when you put the alarm system in and the insurance should decrease substantially.
S. Sqinto – this system is a little less about burglary and more about who is in the building at a certain time – a different level of security.
Mike Okrent, 11 Prince Dr – I have been organizing Earth Day for the past four years and every year there are tables missing. The town replaces the tables but they are not always returned.
First Selectwoman Gorski stated that the building is open from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. On the weekends the building is used for many events. This will give us an indication of who is in the building and who might be using the tables as well. It is for when the building is closed. It is a way to provide some security.
There was no further discussion. A motion was made and duly seconded to call the resolution to a vote. Overwhelming yeas. Passed
Item (9) on call – RESOLVED: that the Selectmen be, and hereby are authorized to transfer $25,000 from the General Fund to the Land Acquisition Fund.
M. Sawdon – I think that we should consider lowering the amount from $25,000. It is a little excessive to put into the Land Acquisition this year given the poor economy.
Chairwoman Brunwin pointed out that it would be coming out of the General Fund not this year’s budget so it would not affect the mill rate.
A. Kelly – Might need to level off the spending since we may need to tap it next year.
M. Sawdon – made a motion to amend the amount for Land Acquisition from $25,000 to $10,000.
J. Foley – asked if it would result in a tax savings. No.
S. Wade, Litchfield Tpke – Our rural beauty is so important. I support the $25,000.
Bruce Loomis, 11 Sabrina Dr – I support as much money as we can put into the fund. We need to be ready whenever an opportunity to pick up land comes along so we can act on it.
A motion was made and duly seconded to reduce the amount to be transferred from the General Fund from $25,000 to $10,000.
Brian Eitzer, 11 Carriage Dr – also in favor of the $25,000 amount.
D. Van Horn asked how much is in the fund now. $400,000.
The motion was called and duly seconded to amend the amount to the Land Acquisition Fund from $25,000 to $10,000. Overwhelming nays. Defeated.
The original motion to transfer $25,000 into the Land Acquisition Fund was called and duly seconded. Overwhelming yeas. Passed.
Item (10) on call - RESOLVED: that the Selectmen be, and hereby are authorized and empowered to enter into agreements on behalf and in the name of the Town of Bethany with the Department of Transportation of the State of Connecticut for the expenditure of funds available to the Town of Bethany during the 2009-10 fiscal year for the maintenance, repair and the building of roads.
A motion was made and duly seconded to amend the resolution to read 2010 – 2011. The motion was called. Overwhelming yeas.
The Moderator called the motion as amended. The motion to call the resolution to a vote was duly made and seconded. Overwhelming yeas. Passed.
Item (11) on call - RESOLVED: that the reports of the Town Officers, Boards and Commissions for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008 as contained in the printed 2008-09 Annual Town Report to be accepted and ordered filed.
There was a motion made and duly accepted to approve the resolution. The motion was called. Overwhelming yeas. Passed.
Chairman Brunwin Commented that she would like to make a correction on additional expenses to the mill rate that she had made earlier. The additional expenses of $60,800 is equivalent to a .1 increase in the mill rate not 5 mills.
A. Kelly – the condition of the main stair case at town hall is a hazard. Made a motion that the special meeting called to report on the condition of the roads also include the cost of repairs to the stairs at town hall.
First Selectwoman Gorski stated that it is already scheduled to be repaired.
Item (12) on call – Other matters proper to come before the meeting.
There was no further discussion. There was a motion, duly seconded to adjourn. The meeting adjourned at 8:50 p.m.
Nancy A. McCarthy