PRESENT: Chairman Hathaway, Councilor Friedman, Councilor Cheney, Councilor Kelly and Councilor Hogan; Manager Reed, Assistant Clerk K. Gifford, CEO Thomas, School Committee Members – Rebecca Wetherbee, Chair, and Julianne Simone; Principal Scott Nichols, Superintendent Thomas Perry, Fire Chief Gerry Martin and Fire Captain Pete Metcalf
ITEM 1. The October 7, 2002 Veazie Town Council was called to order at 7:00 PM.
ITEM 2. Consideration of minutes: Motion By: Councilor Cheney—to accept September 30, 2002 minutes as written. Seconded: Councilor Friedman, Voted 3-0-1 in favor.
Reconsideration of minutes: Motion By: Councilor Cheney—to accept September 23, 2002 minutes as written. Seconded: Councilor Kelly, Voted 3-0-1 in favor.
ITEM 3. Consideration of the Agenda: Councilor Cheney asked that the abatements to date be reviewed. This was added as item 6c.
ITEM 4. Public Comments: There were no comments from the public.
ITEM 5a. School Board Update
School Chair Rebecca Wetherbee stated that their goal was to present how enrollment changes are and will continue to affect the Veazie Community School, review the historical background of the school building project, the initial utilization of the school, factors influencing current facility utilization and present building utilization issues.
Superintendent Thomas Perry stated that with State supported construction there are limitations, they focus on the number of students and convincing them that you need all that space to provide a program for students. Superintendent Perry outlined that Veazie was able to build excellent core facilities; a cafeteria, music room, computer lab, library and gymnasium. When the project was approved in 1992 there were 168 students, clearly things have changed.
Principal Scott Nichols discussed the initial utilization of the school with the Council. He outlined that when the school was first built they were fortunate to have one of the 12 classrooms completely empty and one of the kindergarten room’s was empty for a half a day. There was a lot of flexibility when they moved into the school. Principal Nichols stated that since then they have lost their flexibility, growth is one reason.
Principal Nichols discussed factors influencing current utilization. There has been unexpected student growth and an increase in the number of needs in the building for the special education program. Program expansion is another effecter on space. Middle school foreign language has been added based on Maine Learning Results and feedback from parents/students. Full day kindergarten has also become the “norm” in the area too.
Superintendent Perry stated that because of program changes and enrollment growth the building is not being utilized like it was when it was first moved into. Rooms have had to be moved around and there are 13 classroom teachers running educational programs in 12 regular classrooms.
Superintendent Perry reviewed the Veazie enrollment data sheet. He outlined that the smallest communities are the hardest to predict. The predicted enrollment for kindergarten compared to the actual enrollment in 2001 and 2002 were very different. In 2001 15 students were predicted to attend kindergarten, actual enrollment was 21 students.
Superintendent Perry stated the possible school addition will have four classrooms. Douglas Richmond has done the design. They are the engineer who designed the current facility.
Principal Nichols stated that the school watches enrollment very closely, now they are at a point where they need information from the Council and Town such as the number of lots going in each new subdivision, the expected number of houses to be built each year and the expected number of houses to be put on the market.
Councilor Hogan inquired on whether the people who did the projections could take what has happened with their past projections and the information regarding housing and rethink them.
Superintendent Perry stated that they use the Cohort Survival Method, however the recent experience might warrant looking into doing so.
Chairman Hathaway stated that there is a need staring the Town in the face, the question is when to act. He outlined that it is absolutely right to be proactive. He pointed out that many counties in Maine is losing students however.
Superintendent Perry stated that the project would not be State funded it would be locally funded. Manager Reed outlined that to get portables it would cost $30,000 to $45,000 a year.
Superintendent Perry stated that right now the School Board is at the point of not knowing what it’s next step should be.
Chairman Hathaway inquired on whether the School Board had any way of going back and profiling where the kids are coming from. He outlined that it was a pretty well known fact that a good portion of Veazie students come from apartments and modular housing.
Councilor Hogan stated that the Town should be getting out information to the citizens because it is their dollars that would be paying for the expansion. The Town Council and the School Board doesn’t want to blindside anyone, information should be put in the newsletter to better inform people.
School Board Chair Rebecca Wetherbee inquired on whether the newsletter would be sent out on a monthly schedule. Manager Reed stated that currently a schedule is being worked on and will be distributed to the school and districts.
ITEM 5b. Property Tax Reform – MMA Proposal
Chairman Hathaway stated that MMA is proposing a Tax Reform Citizen Initiative. For the last seven or eight years MMA has tried to work with legislature to get property tax relief and over the years the idea has been shot down. Chairman Hathaway stated that the reason for it is because Towns have become too reliant on property taxes.
Chairman Hathaway reviewed the proposal which called for at least 55% funding of the total state and local cost of Kindergarten through Grade 12 public education. It also included 100% State support for special education services mandated by state or federal law.
Chairman Hathaway stated the next step in the continued advancement of this tax reform initiative is to get 50,000 signatures.
Motion By: Councilor Friedman—to support the proposed tax reform initiative of the “Citizens to Reduce Local Property Taxes Statewide” entitled “An Act To Reduce Local Property Taxes Statewide by signing document “Resolution Supporting an Act to Reduce Property Taxes Statewide”. Seconded: Councilor Hogan, Voted 5-0 in favor.
ITEM 5c. Revision to G.A. Ordinance
Motion by: Councilor Friedman—to have a public hearing on the general assistance amendments and revisions. Seconded: Councilor Cheney, Voted 5-0 in favor.
There were no members of the public in attendance. There was no discussion.
Motion By: Councilor Friedman—to close the public hearing on the general assistance amendments and revisions. Seconded: Councilor Kelly, Voted 5-0 in favor.
Motion By: Councilor Friedman—to adopt the new general assistance guidelines as submitted. Seconded: Councilor Kelly, Voted 5-0 in favor.
ITEM 6a. Municipal Building Update
CEO Thomas was present to give an update on the municipal building project. He stated that the new lights are in and the new doors have been ordered but are not here yet. CEO Thomas outlined that the fire department is essentially done. Paving will begin this week and the vestibule is just about done.
Councilor Hogan inquired on where things were with the ceiling in the Town office. CEO Thomas stated that not much is being done at the moment. The Town electrician, Mike Hall, needs to come and do the wiring but he has been doing so much work here over the summer that he is behind on his other projects.
ITEM 6b. Fire Department Open House
Fire Captain Pete Metcalf was present to discuss the fire department’s open house. He outlined that it is national fire prevention week and on Saturday, October 12th there will be an open house right here at the municipal building from 10:00AM to 2:00PM. There will be demonstrations and exhibits as well as free food.
ITEM 6c. Review of Abatements to Date
Councilor Cheney inquired on why there have been abatements. CEO Thomas outlined that there are less abatements this year then there were in the past year at this time. He explained that two abatements were caused by typos, where the assessed value was inputted incorrectly.
CEO Thomas stated that assessment is a very cursory appraisal process. Assessment has to come within 10% of the actual market value. Councilor Cheney inquired on what percentage of people that approached him got an abatement. CEO Thomas stated about 50%. CEO Thomas outlined that this year taxes went up and there are less abatements where as last year taxes went down and there were more abatements.
Chairman Hathaway requested some statistical information, including the abatement cost of last year, at the next Council meeting. Chairman Hathaway also requested the percentage of collected taxes this year.
Councilor Cheney stated that she had received complaints that the tax bills went out late this year. Manager Reed explained that there were complication dealing with the State and homestead exemption and that is why the commitment date was a little later this year. Manager Reed explained that the September 11th date on the bill was an irrelevant date. The computer requires you pick a date to put in the system and Assessor Thomas just pulled that date which was one week after individuals should have received their bills. Tax bills are actually due upon receipt. Manager Reed also outlined that there is no law that tax bills be mailed out.
ITEM 7. Manager’s Report
a. Enclosed was a letter from the EPA pertaining to the Town’s compliance and violations that the Town is addressing. The Town’s consulstant GZA will submit the follow-up letter as the third party representative.
b. Enclosed was a copy of letters received by Chairman Hathaway and Manager Reed and the follow-up to the letters.
c. Enclosed was a copy of the School Committee’s agenda and minutes
d. Enclosed was a copy of the Water District’s minutes
e. Enclosed was a memo pertaining to new contact numbers for Manager Reed.
ITEM 8. Requests for Information/Council Comments:
Chairman Hathaway stated that the first Veazie 150th Celebration meeting went very well. There were 27 people in attendance. The minutes from the meeting were provided to the Council.
Chairman Hathaway stated that each month he would like to invite a different department or entity to a Council meeting. In November he would like to invite the Water District.
Councilor Friedman expressed concern pertaining to any sort of debt shifting by the Sewer District to the Town.
ITEM 9. Warrants: Town Warrant 7 & 7A, Town Payroll Warrant 7, School Warrant 7, School Lunch Warrant 7 and School Payroll Warrant 7 were circulated and signed.
ITEM 10. Adjournment: Motion: Councilor Friedman —to adjourn October 7, 2002, Town Council Meeting. Seconded: Councilor Cheney, Voted 5-0 in favor. There was no further discussion. Meeting adjourned.