PRESENT: Chairman Hathaway, Councilor Cheney, Councilor Kelly, and Councilor Hogan; Manager Reed, Assistant Clerk K. Gifford, Deputy Treasurer Julie Reed, Deputy Clerk Beckie Woods, CEO Allan Thomas, Deputy CEO John Ellis, Fire Chief Gerry Martin, Assistant Fire Chief Carl Tenney, Police Chief Mark Leonard, Superintendent of Public Works Butch Free, Parks & Recreation Director Rosemary Freese, Sheryl Sutherland, Officer Ashley, Officer Watson, Cpl. Whitehouse, Officer Gould, Lt. Azevedo, Captain Metcalf, Firefighter Nick Sirois, Lt. Hjorth; Budget Committee Members David King, Scott Humphrey, Suzanne Hart and John Manter; School Committee Members Rebecca Wetherbee, Mark Janicki, Hilary Stewart-Reed and Duska Hayman; Superintendent Thomas
Perry, Principal Scott Nichols and Members of the Public. Councilor Friedman was absent and excused.
ITEM 1. The May 19, 2003 Veazie Town Council was called to order at 7:10 PM.
ITEM 2. Consideration of minutes: Motion By: Councilor Cheney—to accept May 12, 2003 minutes as written. Seconded: Councilor Hogan, Voted 3-0-1 in favor. Chairman Hathaway abstained due to his absence.
ITEM 3. Consideration of the Agenda: There were no additions made to the agenda.
ITEM 4. Public Hearing
Motion By: Councilor Cheney—to adjourn regular session and open the public hearing. Seconded: Councilor Hogan, Voted 4-0 in favor.
Councilor Cheney stated that everyone has worked very hard as a team and everyone has communicated well. It has been a challenge to cut some things, some cuts were bad, some weren’t so bad.
Member of the public Harold Smith stated that he thought the pay increases were outrageous, for instance the Fire Chief received a 10% increase in pay one year.
Member of the public Chris Gardner stated that the flyer that was circulated needed to be addressed. He outlined that it was irresponsible for someone to circulate the flyer without citing any information. A lot of residents were probably at this meeting because of the flyer and the misinformation should be addressed.
Member of the public Chris Gardner outlined that the Maine Chief’s assessment was done ten years ago. He also contacted Chief Leonard to inquire on whether the Town was paying for an officer to take college classes and in fact the Town is not.
Member of the public Dick Leonard stated that he did not see the flyer that was circulated around Town, he came because of the article he saw in the Bangor Daily News. He outlined that he has come into this meeting “blind”, he would like the Town to provide more information on the budget to the residents.
Chairman Hathaway explained the budget process to the public. He outlined that it is the same process every year.
Member of the public Ann Kenny stated that she was the one who wrote the flyer that was being circulated. She outlined that the Maine Chief’s assessment was done ten years ago, however, nothing has changed in Veazie in the last ten years. Member of the public Ann Kenny stated that there are too many officers for Veazie. The size of the Town does not require the number of police officers the Town currently has. There are two officers working during the day, one of them can be a crossing guard.
Councilor Cheney agreed that Veazie is a small community, however the Town needs a department who knows what to look for and how to provide for the Town. Veazie lies between two cities and there are such persons as drug dealers that go back and forth through Veazie.
Member of the public Chris Gardner stated that it is unfair to say that Veazie hasn’t changed in the last ten years. If you drive around Veazie you can see all the new houses and subdivisions that have gone in. Chairman Hathaway stated that a lot of laws have changed regarding police officers, they now have to go through the Criminal Justice Academy. The Town cannot continue along the route it was on fourteen years ago, laws are much more stringent. Chairman Hathaway outlined that residents have not complained, that he knows of, that when they dial 911 that they have someone respond in a professional manner. The County Sheriff’s office is going through their own “crisis” and the State Police through theirs not to mention that there is only one state trooper on duty at
night and he patrols I-95.
Member of the public Mike Kenny stated that he is a police officer for Bangor and crime has increased 21.6% in Bangor yet the size of the department has remained the same over the last twenty years. He also stated that their raises are between 1-3% each year.
Member of the public John Sullivan stated that in other parts of the State it has been recommended for the police department to make cuts. He inquired why the Town couldn’t use the Penobscot County Sheriffs Department. Chairman Hathaway stated that the Sheriff’s Department keeps hours during the day, however, during the night there is only one officer in the area and he could be as far away as Millinocket.
Member of the public Albert Suddy inquired whether the Town can just spend money without the residents’ permission, for instance all the money that was spent on the municipal building renovations. Manager Reed stated that the Council has the authority to transfer and reallocate funds.
Member of the public Ray Lynch, Jr., inquired on whether there were raises included in the budget for Town employees. Chairman Hathaway stated that there were.
Manager Reed explained that the Town uses basically the same system as the school. There is a cost of living index that each employee receives each year and that is a maximum of 2.5%. There is also a merit step plan where employees have a performance evaluation once a year and if they pass it they get a maximum of 2.5% wage increase. Member of the public Ray Lynch asked if there was anyone in the budget who got more than a 5% raise. Manager Reed stated that he did not know of anyone without a job description change.
Chairman Hathaway explained that all of the numbers in the budget are appropriations, it is not necessarily money spent. Last year $100,000 went back into surplus.
Member of the public Todd Lynch stated he read on the Veazie website that the Town spent $262,000 on the building and there was mention of an ambulance bay. He asked whether the Town would be getting one. Chairman Hathaway stated that there would be no ambulance.
Member of the public Ann Kenny inquired why Manager Reed got a 9% raise when the maximum wage increase is 5%. Councilor Cheney stated that the Council gave Manager Reed a raise to retain him as Town Manager and to remain competitive to other communities.
Member of the public Jim Chasse stated that he works for a school district that gets 70% State aid and they are more progressive. The Town needs toput more of an investment in education.
Members of the public inquired whether departments cut their budget. Manager Reed outlined that the municipal budget is $160,000 less than last year. Capital purchases were deferred and reduced. Manager Reed also explained that it is the School Department who makes the decisions on what to cut in the School Department’s budget. The school’s budget also increased some 4.5% contrary to belief.
Member of the public John Lombard stated that a lot of people have the idea that the school has cut their budget, however, it has increased from last year. He was also under the impression that teachers were cut because of enrollment not because of the budget.
Superintendent Perry stated that the school budget is up 4.4% from this current year. The department is reducing staff for two reasons. Before the budget was presented a position was cut because of lower than anticipated enrollment. After the budget was presented an additional position was cut. Superintendent Perry explained that with a budget of 80% personnel there isn’t much left to cut.
Member of the public Ann Kenny asked what items were cut in the municipal budget. Chairman Hathaway explained before the budget meetings, departments were asked to reduce their budget. These reductions totaled $101,000. After the budget process began an additional $59,000 was cut from economic development, drainage projects, Veazie 150th celebration and cul de sac improvements to name a few.
Member of the public Ann Kenny asked why there weren’t any cuts in the fire or police department. Chairman Hathaway explained that the departments already reduced their budget before it came to the board. She also inquired how much each department cut. Manager Reed stated that the fire department cut around $38,000, police department cut $19,000, executive cut $15,000 and public works cut around $30,000 roughly.
Member of the public Ann Kenny inquired if the total municipal budget increased. Manager Reed stated that it decreased by some $161,000 from the current fiscal year.
Chairman Hathaway outlined that the Town has always worked in a cooperative spirit with the school. He outlined that it is the Town who has always put things on the ‘back burner’ so the school could have everything they need. The power plant has been a good thing for the community, however, the Town has also lost a lot of State aid as well as the county tax has increased tremendously.
Member of the public Ray Lynch, Jr. asked what happens next as far as the budget process. Chairman Hathaway explained that this was the final step of a series of meetings. The next day the warrant goes to print and on June 10th residents will vote on the budget. It will be presented by department as it always has been.
Member of the public Sheryl Brocket outlined that Superintendent Perry had stated that teachers pay 3% of their health insurance, she inquired whether Town employees paid for theirs. Manager Reed stated that for a single the Town pays 100% and for family the employee pays 50%. Superintendent Perry outlined that teachers pay 3% of whatever coverage they have, whether family or single.
Member of the public Albert Suddy inquired whether a salt shed was going to be built. Chairman Hathaway stated that there would not be. Member of the public Greg Guerin stated that he had heard something about the Town putting a sand and salt shed down off Hobson Avenue. Chairman Hathaway outlined that there was discussion on a place to dispose of brush and refuse, but it was only discussed.
Member of the public Jim Chasse asked how the Town could make the process more public so residents know about it. Chairman Hathaway stated that it is the same process every year, eight weeks ago the meetings started and no one attended. It was noted that the Town newsletter, TV channel and local newspapers have had information in them.
Motion By: Councilor Hogan—to adjourn the public hearing and reconvene regular session. Seconded: Councilor Kelly, Voted 4-0 in favor.
ITEM 5a. Town Warrant
Chairman Hathaway stated he was disheartened to see such tension between departments and to have things come to a room full of people. He outlined that the would like to somehow get $50,000 - $75,000 back to the school so programs aren’t affected.
Councilor Cheney stated she would like to make an amendment to Article 18 and 19. She would like for the Town to take $50,000 from the undesignated fund and increase the amount of Town funding to the school.
Chairman Hathaway stated he was concerned with Article 9. He would like to see another capital reduction of $50,000 and another $50,000 transfer from the undesignated fund to help reduce the projected mill rate.
Councilor Kelly stated that all the departments and committees worked hard on the budget. It was agreed that cuts needed to be made to reduce the proposed mill rate. Councilor Kelly asked what the point of having a budget committee and the Council meet on the budget if it is all just going to change in one meeting. Councilor Kelly also asked if it was right for the school employees to pay 3% of their health insurance while others pay 50%.
Councilor Cheney inquired why the school department was having contract negotiations during the budget process. Superintendent Perry stated that negotiations were delayed usually they do not fall during the budget process.
Motion By: Councilor Cheney—to amend article 18 to read:
“To see what sum the Town of Veazie will raise in additional funds under the provisions of 20A M.R.S.A./15614. Recommended by Town Council $620,549.00.”
and article 19 to read:
“To see what sum the Town of Veazie will authorize the School Committee to expend for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2003, and ending June 30, 2004, from the foundation allocation, debt service allocation, unexpended balances, tuition receipts, local appropriations, state subsidy, and other receipts for the support of schools. Recommended by Town Council $3,071,536.00.”
with the $50,000 increase coming from the undesignated surplus. Seconded: Chairman Hathaway, Voted 2-2, motion fails.
Member of the public Ray Lynch, Jr. asked how many dollars it takes to change the mill rate by one dollar. Chairman Hathaway stated $160,000.
Motion By: Chairman Hathaway—to reduce article 9 from $234,005 to $184,005. Seconded: Councilor Cheney, Voted 4-0 in favor.
Motion By: Chairman Hathaway—to transfer $50,000 from the undesignated fund to help stabilize the mill rate. Seconded: Councilor Cheney, Manager Reed outlined that he would rather see the transfer be made to a specific budget like the School Department’s budget in order to avoid additional balance drawdown, Voted 4-0 in favor.
School Committee Chair Rebecca Wetherbee asked if the Council had any idea how the mill rate will effect State aid next year. Manager Reed outlined that if the mill rate remains low and the community growth goes up, the Town will lose the hardship cushion. The Town will also be ‘hurt’ in State aid if enrollment decreases.
Member of the public Ann Kenny wanted to clarify that at Town meeting that residents can vote to decrease a budget but they cannot increase the school’s budget. Chairman Hathaway stated that she was correct.
Motion By: Councilor Hogan—to accept the Town Warrant as amended. Seconded: Councilor Cheney, Voted 4-0 in favor.
ITEM 6. Comments from the Public
Member of the public David Hjorth stated he would like to propose a dog ordinance and have it go to the Council for approval. He outlined that he has a neighbor who hasn’t licensed their dog and they constantly bark all the time. Chief Leonard stated that the police department has spoken with the dog’s owner numerous times and he has even called in the State Humane Agency to help, but the State will not take the dogs. Chairman Hathaway stated that the Council will have Chief Leonard back at a future meeting to discuss the dog ordinance more.
ITEM 7. Manager’s Report
a.) The Council reviewed a chart of the monthly call volumes by department
b.) The Council reviewed a copy of the School Committee’s meeting minutes.
c.) The Council reviewed a copy of a memo from Captain Metcalf regarding the Fire Department’s SCBA inspection.
d.) The Council reviewed a copy of a letter of thanks from a resident to the Fire Department.
e.) The Council reviewed a copy of the 2003 changes in Maine Resident Homestead Property Tax Exemption.
ITEM 8. Requests for Information/Council Comments: There were no requests for information or comments from the Council.
ITEM 9. Warrants: Town Warrant 23, 23A & 23B, Town Payroll 23, School Warrant 23, School Lunch Warrant 23 and School Payroll 23 were circulated and signed.
ITEM 10. Adjournment: Motion: Councilor Hogan—to adjourn May 19, 2003, Town Council Meeting. Seconded: Councilor Cheney, Voted 4-0 in favor. There was no further discussion. Meeting adjourned at 9:50p.m.