PRESENT: Chairman Friedman, Councilor Hogan, Councilor Cheney, Councilor Perkins and Councilor Champaco; Town Manager B. Reed, Assistant Clerk K. Humphrey, CEO Allan Thomas, Office Administrator Julie Reed, School Committee Members Hilary Stewart-Reed, Kim Dagher, Rebecca Wetherbee, Lisa Janicki and Chair Duska Hayman, Prinicipal Scott Nichols, Superintendent Tom Perry, Public Works Superintendent Butch Free, Budget Committee Members John Manter and Suzanne Hart; Town Auditor Charemon Willey-Staples and Member of the Public Stephen Thebarge.
ITEM 1. The September 20, 2004 Veazie Town Council was called to order at 7:00 PM.
ITEM 2. Consideration of minutes: Motion By: Councilor Cheney—to accept the August 23, 2004 minutes as written. Seconded: Councilor Hogan, Voted 5-0 in favor.
ITEM 3. Consideration of the Agenda: There were no items added to the agenda.
ITEM 4b. School Committee Workshop (taken out of order)
Superintendent Thomas Perry outlined that one thing the department has been working on is the tax cap. One of the difficult things is trying to respond to the ramifications of the tax cap and having to base it on assumptions. Superintendent Perry distributed a list of potential reductions to the Council. Based on Maine Municipal Association figures the school would lose about $700,000 in local revenue, which is 22% of the department’s revenue. The issue is complicated even more by two factors; first, 26% of the school’s budget is secondary tuition which the school has no control over, and second, 14% of the budget is interest and principal that pays for the building, which the school also has no control over. In other words, 40% of the school’s budget is untouchable which
forces the School Board to look at the K-8 department. The bulk of the budget in the K-8 level is salaries and benefits which would lead to a reduction in staff. Superintendent Perry wanted to clarify that none of the suggestions for reductions are carved in stone before he continued.
Three regular classroom teachers would be eliminated so that there would be one teacher per grade Kindergarten through 8th. This would increase class sizes to as high as 25:1. Special area teachers would be reduced or eliminated, significantly changing the curriculum and support services offered to students K-8. Superintendent Perry outlined that special education services would be reduced. Support of purchases of instructional supplies, materials and equipment would be reduced or eliminated. He outlined that support for field trips, conferences would be eliminated and regular transportation for students would be reduced.
In addition, support for co-curricular programs would be eliminated and a limited program would be based on user fees or fund raising. The school lunch program would be significantly reduced and very small, break-even program would be operated. Lastly, facility maintenance would be reduced and the hours the facility is open would be shortened. Superintendent Perry outlined that these items represent the level of reduction the department would have to make if it had the 22% loss in revenue. These items only add up to $536,000 and is short of the $700,000 total loss. He stated that the reductions may not be exactly these items but these are the kinds of drastic measures that the School Department would have to take.
Superintendent Perry outlined that Manager Reed had stated that municipal services would much like they were in the 1970s at their last school committee meeting, he added that the school would be much like that but earlier to the 1970s.
Councilor Champaco stated that on the first chart of enrollments it states that the school had an enrollment of 205 students, however on the next page it states the enrollment at 317. Superintendent Perry explained that the first chart listed the enrollment for grades K-8, the second chart is the total enrollment including high school students.
Superintendent Perry outlined that not only is the department dealing with this tax cap but state and federal mandates as well. A 22% decrease would make it impossible to meet the required educational mandates.
Councilor Champaco inquired why there was such an increase in the school budget when there was only an increase of a few students per year. Superintendent Perry outlined that there are increases in salaries and benefits each year. School Committee member Rebecca Wetherbee also noted that the Town’s state figure has decreased for funding and State “Learning Results” and Federal “No Child Left Behind” standards were enacted.
School Committee Member Lisa Janicki asked the Council what they were doing to educate the citizens of Veazie on the tax cap. Manager Reed talked about the resolution that was next on the agenda. The resolution was for property tax relief. The Town Office will also be putting out a newsletter with information in it.
School Committee Member Duska Hayman outlined that she feared the School Department will lose their best teachers to private schools due to them having to deal with mandates and the school department not being able to compensate them.
Chairman Friedman stated that he has spoken with a lot of residents in town regarding the tax cap. He outlined that everyone has to get the information out. He also noted that the Town has always had a caring staff at the school so he didn’t want to single out certain teachers because all of the staff at the school are the best.
ITEM 4c. Resolution Regarding Property Tax Relief
Councilor Champaco stated that Maine Municipal Assocation has succeeded in getting the proposal passed, however it doesn’t say how it will reduce taxes. She outlined that the resolution doesn’t specify how it will reduce taxes nor does it guarantee that taxes will go down. She stated she thought the Town should restate somewhere in the resolution that the Town will take the money from education and put it towards tax relief.
Manager Reed explained that the resolution does state that. He explained that the Town will have to certify to the State that it used that money towards education. The resolution is stating that the money the Town receives under this law will be accepted and it will reduce our tax commitment.
Town Auditor Charemon Willey-Staples outlined that the State tells the Town how much it has to raise locally in order to receive their State funding amount. Therefore, if the Town receives more money from the State, the Town will have to raise less from the tax commitment.
Councilor Champaco stated that there is no point in the resolution if that is going to happen. Manager Reed explained it may not necessarily happen because the State has not finalized how things with work. He explained that some communities have used extra revenue funds for capital school projects. This proposed resolution outlines that the received funds will be used to decrease the tax burden.
Councilor Champaco stated that residents will look at this resolution and only see that it is suppose to reduce their taxes, but next year their taxes could go up and then they will wonder why.
Councilor Perkins asked what Veazie’s chances were of getting 55% funding for education. Superintendent Perry stated he would be very surprised if Veazie got 55%. He outlined that Veazie is still seen as a wealthy town, however he thinks Veazie will get more money.
Councilor Hogan outlined that when it comes to selling houses, residents want a high value but when it comes to their tax bill they want it valued less. They can’t have it both ways.
Councilor Cheney stated that there are lots in Town being sold for $60,000 and people are building $300,000 and $400,000 homes. This is driving the Town’s value up and it has gotten out of control.
Budget Committee Member Suzanne Hart stated that it is going to be awfully hard for people to understand and not because they are ignorant but because it is very complicated. She outlined that the 55% funding is not 55% of what the Town wants, it is 55% of what the State calculates the Town needs.
Motion By: Councilor Cheney—to declare the intent of the of Veazie Town Council to dedicate funds made available to the Town as a result of the passage of referendum Question #1 to property tax rate reduction and related purposes. Seconded By: Councilor Perkins, Voted 4-1 in favor.
ITEM 4d. Recognition of Thomas Perry
Chairman Friedman stated that he thinks he speaks for everyone when he says that they are sad to see Superintendent Perry go. He has done a great job of bringing the Town Council and School Committee together. He has fostered communication and has been a fighter for the students and staff. It has been a pleasure working with him. Councilor Cheney presented Superintendent Perry with a Town of Veazie picture.
Superintendent Perry stated that it has been a real pleasure to work with everyone. It was a change to work with a small community like Veazie.
ITEM 4a. Draft Audit Report Update
Manager Reed outlined that a workshop will need to be scheduled to go over the draft review. This year the format is different and it will take roughly two hours to go over.
Town Auditor Charemon Willey-Staples stated that her firm has implemented the new reporting model. Fixed assets have been recorded for depreciation. She outlined that the new reporting model is suppose to be more ‘user friendly’.
Town Auditor Charemon Willey-Staples stated that this was by the far the best year. She and her assistant were able to get everything done in less than a week and things appeared to be in tip top shape. She added that even though the new reports had to be created from scratch they are still ahead of schedule.
Manager Reed proposed scheduling a meeting with the budget committee to go over the draft review. Chairman Friedman stated that the draft review should be the only item scheduled for the agenda that night since it will take so long.
Town Auditor Charemon Willey-Staples outlined that her firm is working on the tax cap with the Maine City Managers Association and they are also working to help their clients. Councilor Cheney suggested using the Town Auditor to help educate the public. Town Auditor Charemon Willey-Staples stated she would be happy to help.
Budget Committee Member Suzanne Hart suggested providing a more detailed budget and talking about activities that affect salaries, costs, etc.
Manager Reed stated that he would schedule a time for Town Auditor Charemon Willey-Staples to come to a workshop.
ITEM 5a. Goals Update
Manager Reed outlined that there are three major projects that are currently ongoing. First is the transformation of the Town into a more functioning E-Government. Second, is the Penobscot River Restoration Project and third is the public education on the tax cap matter.
Manager Reed stated that staff has decided to try a part-time employee to fill the vacant full-time position. Staff is trying to encourage residents to do more transactions over the internet. He added that staff would like to have Parks & Recreation registration online by the end of the year. CEO Allan Thomas is in the process of trying to get accessing information online as well. The Town has made significant investments in technology and it should yield productivity gains.
ITEM 5b. Public Works Discussion
Public Works Superintendent Butch Free outlined that he was approached by Manager Reed and the Recreation Department to build a storage building. The building is now complete and will be used by the school and the Recreation Department.
Superintendent Butch Free stated that he would like to pave from Mt. View Drive to Longmeadow Drive along Chase Road on the eastbound side. This project will use up a good portion of the paving funds but he believes the section is in need of repair. He added that a few other roads in Town will be cracked sealed this fall and that will keep them good for another year.
Councilor Cheney voiced her concern regarding the paving. She didn’t want to see the Town end up with ten roads that needed to be paved in one year. Superintendent Butch Free stated that he did not think that would be a problem, most of the roads are in good shape.
It was the consensus of the Council to move forward with the Chase Road paving project.
Manager Reed outlined that an additional item that needed to be discussed was the gas allowances for personal vehicles used by the Town. He outlined that in the past the Town had afforded the individuals who used their personal vehicles at work to fill up once a week. The process was then changed to the individuals keeping track of their mileage.
Superintendent Free stated that the department primarily uses his personal truck and occasionally another employee uses his truck to run errands so that they wouldn’t have to use the large dump trucks. He has been filling his tank once a week and allowing the other employee to fill his tank every two weeks based on use.
Chairman Friedman outlined that it would be too costly to pay for mileage and the Town cannot afford to purchase a pickup truck for the department. He thought this was the best deal for the Town.
Superintendent Free stated that the employees keep a daily mileage log book which details usage and total mileage but not point ‘a’ to ‘b’.
Councilor Hogan asked if the employees were happy with this arrangement. Superintendent Butch Free stated they are. He outlined that keeping track of mileage is difficult especially with short trips like down to the cemetery and back.
Councilor Perkins asked if the Town Auditor was happy with this arrangement. Manager Reed stated she was with the log book system. He outlined that it is up to the Council to decide what kind of policy they would like the department to use. Councilor Champaco inquired about the liability involved with using personal vehicles on the job. Superintendent Butch Free stated that this has been the arrangement for many years. He outlined that he pays for all the maintenance on his vehicle and if he were to get into an accident he would pay the expenses. Manager Reed explained how the Town’s insurance general liability insurance works.
It was the consensus of the Council to continue with this system. Councilor Champaco and Councilor Perkins outlined that the department should ensure that they maintain a log book.
ITEM 5c. Legal Matters
Manager Reed stated that he received a letter from Greystone Park owner Mark Mullins. There have been a few problems with the water project. They have already starting replacing water lines to each unit in the park. The cost has been greater than originally anticipated and he will only be able to install one fire hydrant in the park. Manager Reed asked the Council if it was acceptable to only put one hydrant.
Councilor Cheney inquired about the long-term plan to eliminate trailers and add townhouses. Manager Reed outlined that those plans may not go through anytime soon. He added that he is selling a lot of the trailers that the park owns and they are trying to get new trailers in.
The Council felt that it was acceptable for the one fire hydrant. Manager Reed outlined that the Town would still be installing one on State Street by the park entrance.
ITEM 6. Public Comments: There were no comments from the public.
ITEM 7. Manager’s Report:
a. Manager Reed outlined that he had prepared tax cap information for the Sewer District and School Committee.
b. The Council reviewed a copy of a memo pertaining to an article that was brought to the Town’s attention by a resident. Assessor Allan Thomas wrote the memo detailing the disconnection with the tax commitment and tax rate.
c. The Council reviewed a copy of a letter Assessor Allan Thomas had written to a resident regarding their property assessment.
d. The Council reviewed a copy of the Town’s policy on “Complaints About Municipal Personnel.”
e. The Council reviewed a copy of the Town’s Employees Assistance Program’s annual report.
f. The Council reviewed a copy of the Fire Department’s monthly report for August.
g. The Council reviewed a copy of the School Committee’s agenda and minutes.
h. The Council reviewed a copy of “Speaking Volumes.”
i. The Council reviewed a copy of an article about Terrance Dewan, who the Town uses in its community master planning process.
j. The Council reviewed an update on the new Television and Cable Monitor Recycling Law.
k. The Council reviewed a copy of the Town’s workers compensation rating review.
l. The Council reviewed a copy of a letter from Principal Nichols outlining his appreciation for the new storage shed.
m. The Council reviewed a copy of Manager Reed’s certificate from the Maine Town and City Management Association.
ITEM 8. Requests for Information/Council Comments: There were no comments or requests for information.
ITEM 9. Warrants: Town Warrant 6 & 6A Town Payroll Warrant 6, School Warrant 6 and School Payroll Warrant 6 were circulated and signed.
ITEM 10. Adjournment: Motion: Councilor Cheney—to adjourn the September 20, 2004 Town Council Meeting. Seconded: Councilor Hogan—there was no further discussion. Voted 5-0, Meeting adjourned at 9:39 p.m.