PRESENT: Chairman Friedman, Councilor Hogan, Councilor Perkins, and Councilor Champaco; Town Manager B. Reed; Budget Committee Members S. Hart, J. Manter, D. King, J. Perkins, S. Humphrey; Assistant Clerk J. Raye; Office Manager J. Reed; Police Chief M. Leonard; Fire Chief G. Martin; Assistant Fire Chief C. Tenney; Firefighter N. Sirois; Firefighter P. Metcalf; Code Enforcement Officer/Tax Assessor A. Thomas; Superintendent of Schools K. Clenchy; Principal S. Nichols; School Committee Members K. Dagher, L. Janicki, D. Hayman, R. Wetherbee; Public Works Superintendent G. Free; Recreation Director R.
Freese; 19 people from the public; Councilor Cheney was excused.
ITEM 1. The May 18, 2005 Veazie Town Council was called to order at 7:00PM.
ITEM 2. Budget Workshop
Chairman Friedman opened up the budget discussion for the audience to ask questions. Chairman Friedman noted that it was imperative that a decision be made that night about the Warrant so it could be included in the Annual Report.
Resident Gary Brooks noted that at Monday night’s meeting, the Budget Committee asked for cuts in the total budget and he inquired about the standing since then.
Chairman Friedman noted that nothing had been done yet because there are so many fixed costs, that there are really few things to be reduced.
Resident Ray Lynch informed the Council that no one is criticizing the budget, the Townspeople just want to know where the money is coming from.
Chairman Friedman noted that there have already been 2 positions cut on the Municipal side and there has been only $6500 designated for Economic Development. Manager Reed outlined what the $6500 is for: keeping up with Bangor Regional Development Alliance (BRDA) and the Town website. The Manager also noted that there are no secrets about where our money comes from and all of that information is available to the public. It was noted that there has been 6 Budget Committee and Town Council meetings and workshops over the past five months dealing with the Town budget. There were also newsletters, newspaper articles, and TV notices about the public process.
Resident Anne Kenney requested to know if the budgets are broken down line by line so Townspeople can where money is spent. Also, she wanted to comment about the recent newsletter insert; her concerns were that the pie chart was a visual slam to the school. (The pie chart was breaking down what percent of property taxes go to each Department.)
Chairman Friedman apologized because that was certainly not the intent of the chart; it was strictly to inform.
Resident Rod Hathaway requested that someone address his concerns about the mill rate. The Town has $3 million in new community value but if it hadn’t where would the 9% hike in the mill rate come from? Increasing the community value is potentially very dangerous. Town Staff should send out notices before the tax bills go out to inform people about the change in valuation of their respective properties. He also wanted to know why tax payments are due so soon after the bills are received when surrounding Towns are able to put off the receipt of their tax payments for months. It was noted that while Mr. Hathaway was Council Chair that same issue came up but tax collections did not change and he knew why.
Chairman Friedman noted that the Council is concerned with that process as well.
Councilor Champaco wanted to backtrack a bit because she was concerned with Ms. Kenney’s comment. As a clarification, the chart was only intended to inform and charts such as those are one of the best ways to display number and percent information. Ms. Kenney noted that in the past, the School has been targeted by the Council. She said that there should have been comparisons with other Towns. Councilor Champaco went on to clarify that the Budget Committee did not accept any of the budget at the last meeting: there was no singling out of the School Department.
Mr. Lynch commented that perhaps we could contract out Town Fire Department coverage.
Resident Peter Paul mentioned the idea of contracting out police patrol, also.
Chairman Friedman noted that those ideas have been reviewed and are not very cost-effective.
Manager Reed further explained that Veazie often looks at regionalization as an option, but it has yet to work out for public safety.
Resident Kevin Carr reminded the audience that the Budget Committee had requested a reduction in the total budget. He asked if any departments had brought forward any adjustments. Superintendent Clenchy wanted to take a minute to explain the revenues received through EPS. By passing that legislation, Veazie has gained $160,000 in State revenues via transition funding. However, Superintendent Clenchy also wanted to note that in order for Veazie to have access to those funds, the Town needs to award the School the required local funds.
Manager Reed also wanted to refresh the audience on how LD 1 effects municipal spending. Through LD 1, there are municipal spending caps that say if there is not new community value, budgets cannot increase in excess of the State’s yearly growth rate of 2.58%. Veazie, in Fiscal Year 2005/2006 was allowed a growth limit of 3.73%.
Chairman Friedman noted that the Council would move to either accept the budget as written or not accept it as written. He then handed the floor over to the Budget Committee.
Committee Chairperson Hart noted that they would like to accept questions from the public during the Town Council’s recess. .
Councilor Champaco made a motion for the Council to have a 20-minute recess. Seconded: Councilor Hogan. Voted 5-0 in favor.
Chairperson Hart called the meeting of the Budget Committee to order at 7:55 p.m. She went on to say that the Committee made a recommendation two nights prior that asked for examination of the budget. She asked if any Department had been able to make cuts to non-mandated or fixed costs.
Superintendent Clenchy note that along with the School Committee, he revisited the budget. Fixed costs represent 96% of the School Department total budget, which leaves $10,000 to “play with.” His recommendation was to accept the budget as is in order to continue the outstanding educational program at Veazie Community School.
After voting on each department, the Budget Committee came up with the following statement: “We recommend acceptance of the budget for the presentation to the voters of the Town of Veazie for Town Meeting along with the Town Council.” The Committee’s recommendation was not unanimous.
The Council Chairman reconvened the meeting of the Town Council.
Councilor Champaco wanted to make a point of order on the signing of the Town Warrant. She wanted to make it known that she did not accept the budget as written because how money is spent every years needs to be evaluated. She noted that people have grown to accept budget increases as the norm,, but at some point, we have to realize we can’t keep doing that.
Mr. Paul asked whose responsibility it was to control Department’s expenditures; he was informed that it was the Town Manager’s job.
Manager Reed outlined that the Town Manager receives policy directives and limitations from the Town Council and then a budget is drafted to the Budget Committee.
Councilor Hogan made a motion to move that the Town Council accept the budget as presented for submission to the Town Warrant and Town meeting June 14th. The motion failed.
Councilor Perkins said he would not endorse the budget as is. Councilor Champaco agreed with Councilor Perkins.
Superintendent Clenchy noted the parents would not be happy with the education their children would receive if the School could not exceed EPS.
Chairman Friedman called a 15-minute recess in order to allow for a rest room break.
Chairman Friedman brought the meeting back to order.
The Councilors then discussed the merits of limiting growth for about 10 minutes.
ITEM 3. Town Warrant
Councilor Perkins made a motion to accept the Warrant as presented with the following revisions: reduce the Municipal budget increase to 2.0% and reduce the School Department’s 7.4% increase by 1% to 6.4%. Seconded: Councilor Hogan. Voted 4-0 in favor.
It was then ordered for Manager Reed to produce an amended Warrant for Councilors to sign.
The Department Heads and School Committee will discuss and reduce their respective budgets accordingly, and the Councilors will sign the Town Warrant on Thursday, May 19, 2005, in order that it will be published in the Annual Report.
ITEM 4. Adjournment: Motion: Councilor Perkins—to adjourn the May 18, 2005 Town Council Meeting. Seconded: Councilor Hogan–there was no further discussion. Voted 5-0. Meeting adjourned at 9:30 p.m.