PRESENT: Chairman Friedman, Councilor Kelly and Councilor Hogan, Town Manager B. Reed, CEO Allan Thomas and Assistant Clerk K. Humphrey, Office Administrator Julie Reed, Superintendent Thomas Perry, Principal Scott Nichols, School Committee Member Rebecca Wetherbee, Bangor Daily News Reporter Aimee Dolloff, Budget Committee Members John Manter and Suzanne Hart, Members of the Public Joan Samiya and Masanori Samiya. Councilor Cheney arrived late and was excused.
ITEM 1. The March 22 2004 Veazie Town Council was called to order at 7:00 PM.
ITEM 2. Consideration of minutes: Motion: Councilor Hogan—to accept March 8, 2004 minutes as written. Seconded: Councilor Kelly, Voted 2-0-1 in favor. Chairman Friedman abstained due to his absence from the meeting.
ITEM 3. Consideration of the Agenda: Manager Reed stated that he wanted to discuss the idea of the Town participating in the Rapid Renewal program. This was added as item 5c.
ITEM 4a. School Committee Update
Superintendent Perry was present, along with School Committee member Rebecca Wetherbee and Principal Nichols to discuss where they are with this year’s budget and some aspects of next year. He outlined that the good news is that the department seems to be making it through the current year okay. Last year, the department had voiced its concerns on secondary tuition but, as the year has progressed some students have left and some new ones have come so it has balanced itself out. Superintendent Perry noted that the department had some over spending in one area and underspending in another which equaled out to about a $1000 difference between the budgeted amount and actual monies spent.
Superintendent Perry stated that in the current fiscal year, the school department received $1,020,537 in State aid, however under the Governor’s current recommendation Veazie would only receive $868,889 in the coming fiscal year, a 15% decrease.
He also noted that last year Veazie received a hardship cushion, however, in the coming year he is not sure if the State will be giving any hardship cushions because the Governor’s budget does not include any. Superintendent Perry outlined that Veazie’s fiscal capacity is 18% above the State average. Fiscal capacity is the amount of property value behind each student, it is derived by dividing the Town’s total property value by the total number of students. Next year Veazie will be 21% above the State average. He added that even though there will be more money going to education next year, there will be less coming to Veazie from the State.
Superintendent Perry provided the Town Council with printed slides from a PowerPoint presentation regarding the proposed new funding model by the Maine State Board of Education. He outlined that State wide, student numbers are going down but costs are still going up.
Under the Governor’s proposed funding model there would be incentives for schools that are highly efficient, regional cooperatives and regional school districts.
Superintendent Perry stated that there are still some unanswered questions. The new Essential Program and Services model does not work for special education and vocational education. He pointed out that this is something that is “coming down the road” in 2005-2006 and that it won’t affect the 2004-2005 budget.
Superintendent Perry outlined that the School Department has been working on developing a draft budget and will have it ready by their April 5th meeting with the Town Council and Budget Committee. They should also have a clearer picture on State funding by then as well.
Councilor Cheney stated that she could see where this model would work in a place like Lubec where nine students make up a graduating class and jobs are few, however, she does not see it working around here.
Councilor Cheney inquired on how the model would help balance the southern part of the State versus the northern part. Superintendent Perry stated that the model is just a proposal right now, nothing has been “set in stone”.
Councilor Cheney inquired on what the impact would be to John Bapst if the Town of Veazie regionalized and contracted with Orono. Superintendent Perry stated that it would have a huge impact on John Bapst. He added that from Orono’s perspective, regionalization looks attractive but not from Veazie’s perspective. We could quite possibly lose school choice and control over the school system.
Chairman Friedman commended the school department for keeping their budget right on target. The School Board and school employees pulled together in tight times and did an excellent job. He added that he was sad to see Superintendent Perry retire – he has been the “glue that has held everything together.” Superintendent Perry stated that he has thoroughly enjoyed working with Veazie and Orono.
Councilor Kelly outlined that because Veazie worked hard and got a power plant built in town that it is going to pay the price now. If the Town didn’t have the power plant the mil rate would be considerably higher than it is now. Either way Veazie would lose out.
ITEM 4b. Graham School Project Representative
A representative from the Graham School project was not present for the Council meeting. Councilors expressed their concern with the letter from Stephen Mooers that was “cc’d” to only one Councilor. Chairman Friedman outlined that five people make up a Council – not one person. Chairman Friedman also outlined that it was discerning that the Town afforded the old school at no cost to Penquis C.A.P. and contributed $200,000 to the Graham School Project and yet they are requesting such a large additional annual rent and they did not show up to the Council meeting to discuss the matter. Chairman Friedman requested that Manager Reed send a letter outlining all of the Council’s concerns.
ITEM 4c. Planning Board Appointment
Manager Reed outlined that included in the Council’s packet was a copy of a request from Kent Tableman for appointment to the Planning Board. He added that usually when a person is appointed they are appointed to a one year associates position. From there they can then fill a three year term.
Motion By: Councilor Hogan—to appoint Kent Tableman as an associate member of the Planning Board for a one year term expiring June 30th, 2005. Seconded: Councilor Kelly, Voted 4-0 in favor.
ITEM 4d. Manager’s Review - Annual
It was the consensus of the Council to have one Councilor gather the input of all Councilors and meet with Manager Reed. Councilor Hogan stated that he would meet with Manager Reed.
ITEM 5c. Rapid Renewal (Taken out of order)
Manager Reed stated that two years ago the Town looked into getting Rapid Renewal but there were problems with the software and cost. Currently, it would only costs Veazie its agent fee to participate. It comes at no cost to the community. The software is part of our TRIO software and turning it on will increase our annual licensing fee. He outlined that the program will not affect our excise revenue. It is estimated that only $200 of agent fees will be lost annually. Manager Reed stated that it will give residents the option to renew online in the case that they cannot make it to the Town Office during regular business hours.
It was the consensus of the Council to move forward with Rapid Renewal and authorize the Town Manager to implement the program.
ITEM 5b. Budget Process Outline (Taken out of order)
Manager Reed outlined that included in the Council packets was a revised budget schedule. On April 5th the School Department will present their budget and on April 19th the municipal departments will present theirs.
ITEM 5a. Personnel Matter
Motion By: Councilor Hogan—to adjourn regular session and enter into executive session to discuss a personnel matter. Seconded: Councilor Cheney, Voted 4-0 in favor.
Motion By: Councilor Hogan—to adjourn executive session and reconvene regular session. Seconded: Councilor Cheney, Voted 4-0 in favor.
ITEM 6. Public Comments: There were no comments from the public.
ITEM 7. Manager's Report:
Manager Reed distributed a copy of a letter from the Sewer District and a copy of the Legislative Bulletin from Maine Municipal Association to the Council to go with the manager’s report. The letter from the Sewer District included the annual assessment of the Veazie Sewer District which increased some 25%. The Legislative Bulletin included an article pertaining to Carol Palesky’s property tax cap initiative. Attorney General Steve Rowe outlined that there are deep constitutional flaws in the initiative.
a. The Council reviewed a copy of Carol Palesky’s proposed wording for the November ballot regarding the act to impose limits on real and personal property taxes.
b. The Council reviewed a copy of the Governor’s proposed act to eliminate the personal property tax and the homestead exemption.
c. The Council reviewed a copy of a letter from the Municipal Review Committee regarding the West Old Town Landfill Project.
d. The Council reviewed a copy of a letter from the Maine Service Centers Coalition regarding the mitigation of proposed personal property tax losses. The Maine Service Centers Coalition had extensive dialogue with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and it had indicated a desire to mitigate the impact of repealing this tax.
e. The Council reviewed a copy of an email regarding the Town’s new website. In the coming month staff will be providing a statistical report regarding frequency of use, most popular usage times, etc.
f. The Council reviewed a copy of a chart from the Fire Department displaying the number of incidents per year over the last twenty years. The number of incidents has greatly increased over the last 10 years.
ITEM 8. Requests for Information/Council Comments: There were no requests for information or comments.
ITEM 9. Warrants: Town Warrant 19 & 19A, Town Payroll Warrant 19, School Warrant 19, School Payroll Warrant 19 and School Lunch Warrant 19 were circulated and signed.
ITEM 10. Adjournment: Motion: Councilor Hogan—to adjourn the March 22 2004 Town Council Meeting. Seconded: Councilor Kelly —there was no further discussion. Voted 4-0 Meeting adjourned at 8:32 p.m.