PRESENT: Councilor Cheney, Councilor Friedman, Councilor Kelly, and Councilor Hogan; Manager Reed, Assistant Clerk K. Gifford, Assistant Chief Carl Tenney, Police Chief Mark Leonard, Fire Chief Gerry Martin, Superintendent of Public Works Butch Free, Budget Committee Members John Manter, Suzanne Hart, Scott Humphrey and David King; Parks & Recreation Director Rosemary Freese, Superintendent Thomas Perry, Principal Scott Nichols, School Committee Members Duska Hayman, Rebecca Wetherbee, Mark Janicki and Hilary Stewart-Reed and eighteen Members of the Public.
ITEM 1. The May 12, 2003 Veazie Town Council was called to order at 7:00 PM.
ITEM 2. Consideration of minutes: Motion By: Councilor Hogan—to accept May 5, 2003 minutes as written. Seconded: Councilor Cheney, Voted 4-0 in favor.
ITEM 3. Consideration of the Agenda: There were no additions made to the agenda.
ITEM 4. Budget Workshop
Manager Reed outlined that in the Council packets was a new budget summary. The revised mill rate that is proposed is 17.7. Manager Reed displayed four graph/charts: percentage breakdown of budget, budget history of the municipal and school budgets and two tax rate comparisons of surrounding communities to Veazie. Also included in the Council packets was a memo outlining the proposed additional reductions for the municipal budget with a total of $160,319.
Superintendent Perry stated that the School Department is faced with increased costs and less State funding. The School Committee has met and made two series of reductions to the proposed increase. The current budget proposal totals $3,021,536 and reflects a 4.9% increase over the 2002-2003 budget.
Councilor Friedman and Councilor Hogan both stated they appreciated the effort the School Committee has put into this budget. It is never easy to cut a budget.
Manager Reed outlined that currently the new revised mill rate is 17.7 however there is still a question of land value that the Town Assessor is dealing with.
Councilor Cheney stated that is was obvious by the attendance that there were concerns with the cuts the school made. She was interested in hearing what everyone had to say.
Superintendent Perry stated that it is the School Committee’s responsibility to make the best decisions and choose the items to be cut or reduced. The School Department will lose some flexibility, a few extra students are usually budgeted for but this year the School Committee budgeted for the number of students it currently has.
Principal Nichols stated that the School Department has lost the ability to cushion a student elsewhere in special education. Teachers will also be faced with a greater challenge where the budget will not be as flexible for them. The School Department will be watching enrollment closely until September but they are pleased that programs will be continuing.
Councilor Cheney mentioned that it was nice to see such a turnout for the budget meeting but it would be nice to see the same turnout throughout the entire budget process.
Councilor Hogan asked the Budget Committee if they had any input or comments. Budget Committee member Suzanne Hart stated that she has noticed that a number of schools around the State are making regional arrangements for purchasing supplies. She added that health care will need to be looked at in the future.
Councilor Hogan stated that the Town needs to be prepared for shortfalls, many school districts such as Newport, Dover Foxcroft and Milo are facing heavier cuts than the Town of Veazie. A lot of hard work has been put into this budget and it seems to be in place.
Member of the public Gary Brooks stated that this was the third meeting he had attended and there hasn’t been any interaction between the Council and the people sitting in the audience and between the Council and the Budget Committee. He stated that he has three kids at the Veazie Community School in large classes and is disturbed with rumors that cuts have involved personnel.
Member of the public Ann Kenny asked what items specifically were cut. Superintendent Perry stated that reductions prior to the first presented budget included the reduction of one teaching position because of enrollment, the postponement of the Gifted/Talented Program and the postponement of reading services to the 5th and 6th graders. Once the initial budget was presented the School Committee reduced an additional teaching position, postponed bringing the guidance counselor back to full time, postponed planned technical purchases, reduced purchases of textbooks and instructional items and they also postponed capital improvements to the facility. Superintendent Perry noted that there will still be some technical purchases and maintenance of the building will still be conducted. Funding for the
lunch program has also been slightly reduced. Superintendent Perry stated that there will still be a quality school program even with these reductions and postponements.
Member of the public Ann Kenny inquired whether it was a kindergarten teacher who lost their job. Superintendent Perry stated that he was not comfortable talking about individual positions in a public forum.
Member of the public Cathy Glifort stated that people are moving into Veazie and there are also subdivisions going in as well. She wondered how the Town and school could propose a budget like this four months before the new school year has even begun. Councilor Friedman stated that the Council and the School Committee would start working together in June to make sure everything was going well.
Member of the public Todd Lynch stated that he heard a Councilor say that other towns were cutting budgets. He argued that those other towns didn’t have a new power plant located in it. Member of the public Todd Lynch stated that he and other residents were told that taxes drop, however, they aren’t dropping and now teaching positions are being cut. He inquired whether a teaching position would be added if there was a fluctuation in the enrollment. Councilor Friedman stated that the School Department would have no choice but to add one.
Manager Reed stated that there is opportunity for the School Committee to approach the Town Council. There are reserves set aside for tuition and such. Member of the public Jim Chasse inquired on how much was in the reserves. Manager Reed stated that there is $100,000 in the tuition reserve.
Member of the public Kim Jones stated that when her children were at the Veazie Community School improvements of offering a foreign language and a separate math class such as Algebra were made. She outlined that she would hate to see them go. Superintendent Perry stated that those programs will remain.
Member of the public Jim Chasse inquired on what percentage of the total budget was dedicated to the school. Manager Reed stated that the school makes up 62% of the budget. Member of the public Jim Chasse stated that other communities the size of Veazie dedicate 80% of the budget and Veazie should as well.
Member of the public Donald Pembroke stated that the Town is in a “money crunch” right now and there should be a freeze on raises. He doesn’t believe in 5% raises when the Town is taking away from the children. Manager Reed explained that the Town has a merit step plan which is very similar to the school’s wage plan which is a cost of living factor and a possible step or merit upon review of 2.5%
Councilor Cheney explained that a year ago the Council discussed the pay employees are given and decided to invest in retaining the Town’s employees because of their skills. If employees are lost then new employees would have to be trained. The Town made a commitment to retain employees and avoid turnover.
Manager Reed outlined that Veazie has a considerably lower tax rate compared to surrounding communities. Member of the public Ann Kenny asked what communities he was comparing Veazie to. Manager Reed listed communities that offer the same services and have the same infrastructure costs as Veazie - Old Town, Orono, Bangor and Brewer. Member of the public Ann Kenny stated that it was not feasible to compare Veazie to those towns because they are larger in size and Veazie should be compared to Glenburn for example. Manager Reed explained that when comparing you must compare towns that offer the same services. Glenburn may be the same in population but it does not offer all the services or have fire hydrants, street lights or sewer assessment that Veazie does. Old Town, Orono, Bangor
and Brewer all offer the same services as Veazie, ie. sewer, road side pickup, fire, police.
Member of the public Ann Kenny asked whether a small town like Veazie needed so many people working here. She stated that positions are being cut at the school so the Town can have bigger and better departments. She also asked how the Police Chief’s salary compared to other communities the size of Veazie. Chief Leonard stated that he is the third lowest paid police chief in the entire State.
Member of the public Todd Lynch inquired whether the Police Department needed to buy a cruiser every year. Chief Leonard stated that he is trying to go from purchasing a car every year to every two years.
Member of the public Jim Chasse inquired on when the last time was that the Town did an outsourcing study for fire and public works. Manager Reed outlined that the cost of service delivery is about the same if not more.
CEO Thomas stated that residents have the misconception that Veazie doesn’t lose business however, last year Dennis Paper moved out of Town and the building only sold for half of its value.
Member of the public Ann Kenny asked what happens if the budget is voted down at Town Meeting. Manager Reed explained that the budget would go back to another workshop with the Budget Committee and another Town Meeting could be called.
Member of the public Donnie Pembroke asked Superintendent Perry if he was happy with the school’s budget. Superintendent Perry stated that he and the School Committee feel that the budget is reasonable. School Committee Chair Rebecca Wetherbee stated that the school will continue to provide quality education to the students. Given the economic times the School Committee feels that this is a reasonable budget.
It was the consensus of the departments to submit the proposed budgets to the Town Council and Budget Committee for public hearing.
ITEM 5. Public Comments: There were no comments from the public
ITEM 6. Requests for Information/Council Comments: There were no requests for information or comments from the Council.
ITEM 7. Adjournment: Motion: Councilor Kelly—to adjourn May 12, 2003, Town Council Meeting. Seconded: Councilor Hogan, Voted 4-0 in favor. There was no further discussion. Meeting adjourned at 8:34p.m.