PRESENT: Chairman Friedman, Councilor Champaco, Councilor Hathaway, Councilor Cheney; Manager W. Reed; Deputy Clerk K. Humphrey; Tax Assessor A. Thomas; Office Administrator J. Reed, Police Chief M. Leonard, Superintendent K. Clenchy, Principal S. Nichols; School Committee Member J. Hathaway, Parks & Recreation Director L. Janicki, Budget Committee Members J. Perkins and S. Hart, Garey Reid of Collabric. Councilor Perkins was absent and excused.
ITEM 1. The November 28, 2005 Veazie Town Council was called to order at 7:00PM.
ITEM 2. Consideration of the Minutes
Motion By: Councilor Champaco—to accept the November 14, 2005 minutes as written. Seconded: Councilor Hathaway, Voted 4-0 in favor.
ITEM 3. Consideration of the Agenda
There were no additions made to the agenda.
ITEM 4a. Pine Tree Zone Discussion
Manager Reed outlined that the Town had received a request from Collabric to be designated as a Pine Tree Zone. Enclosed in the Councilor’s packets was a copy of a program summary that states what benefits Pine Tree Zones allows a business to be eligible for. There was also a copy of an aerial photo that shows the proposed parcel.
Manager Reed stated that John Holden from Eastern Maine Development Corporation (EMDC), who is the Town’s contact person for the Penobscot Valley Pine Tree Zone Steering Committee, said that EMDC would be taking this item up at their next meeting. Manager Reed outlined that John Holden had outlined that the acceptance by the committee would be no problem.
Manager Reed outlined that the Town would have to publish a ten day notice for a public hearing, hold the public hearing, record attendance and minutes and then hold a Council meeting to pass the resolution on the Pine Tree Zone creation in Veazie.
Motion By: Councilor Hathaway –to authorize the Town to schedule a public hearing on the proposed creation of a Pine Tree Development Zone for the property owned by Mark Sampson, DBA Collabric, Map 6, Lot 81 of the Town of Veazie’s tax maps, to be held at the next Town Council meeting Monday, December 12th, 2005. Seconded: Councilor Cheney. Councilor Hathaway inquired whether this was the only parcel. Manager Reed stated it was. Councilor Hathaway asked if this was a “case by case” item. Manager Reed stated that the Town will do it on a business by business application process due to the fact that the Town did not own any developed “ready to build” lots and/ or buildings. Councilor Hathaway inquired whether the Town could do
another parcel in Town, for instance on Stillwater Avenue. Manager Reed stated the Town could, it did not have to connected to an already existing Pine Tree Zone. Voted 4-0 in favor.
Garey Reid of Collabric stated that they are doubling the size of the facility. This will provided at least five more jobs in the $25,000 salary range.
ITEM 4b. Budget Workshop
Assessor Allan Thomas stated that the State’s growth factor increased from 2.58 to 2.62. The Town’s annual factor went down from .9 to .7 which is a rough estimate at this point in time. He outlined that the Town still falls well under the State guidelines.
Councilor Champaco inquired on difference between the allowed municipal growth rate and annual growth rate. Manager Reed explained that the total municipal growth rate was the total allowed with any “rollover” included from prior Commitment Years. Last year the Town was allowed a growth rate of 3.58%, however the Town only used 2%. The additional 1.5% that the Town did not use can be carried forward and added to the Town’s growth allowance for this year. The annual growth rate is the State’s minimum allowance figure plus the assessor’s calculated growth figure based on new construction values and not valuation inflation.
Councilor Champaco inquired on an estimate for the annual growth rate for the coming fiscal year. Manager Reed estimated it around 3.33% in addition to the 1.5% that was unused last year for a total allowance of 4.83%.
It was outlined that the Town was required to designate at least 8.26 mils toward education before the State would pay any funding, which the Town currently does. Superintendent Kelly Clenchy outlined that based on State figures he is estimating that the State will want .77 mils less. He added that this is about $118,000 less in monetary figures. Superintendent Clenchy outlined that the Town was also given transitional funding last year so he is not sure how the two will balance out.
Councilor Hathaway stated that he thought the transition was a five year phase and the school should still be receiving funds for this. Both Superintendent Clenchy and Manager Reed outlined that they hoped that the funding would be there but the State has had a history of not living up to its funding commitments.
Manager Reed outlined that the Town is looking for guidance on the municipal side on whether the Town should aim for the total growth allowance or the annual growth allowance. He expressed that he would like to outline the direction to the department heads prior to the start of the formal budget process. Manager Reed then outlined that he believed that aiming at the annual growth factor and saving the remainder for a future rainy day might be the best approach.
Councilor Champaco outlined that she was concerned with using the annual growth rate factor when they have been told that future repairs to roads and putting money aside for a fire truck will be required. The concern outlined was, is 3.33% going to address the future needs? The manager outlined that a minimal growth budget would not include any major paving projects or any other large capital projects. The budget would entail maintaining what the Town does and preventative maintenance like roadway crack sealing, etc.
Chairman Friedman outlined that the object of this workshop was to give guidance on direction to the department heads and Budget Committee in order to avoid another replay of the prior year’s budget process.
Councilor Cheney asked when would the School Department know more about the States Aid to Education figures? Superintendent Clenchy outlined that preliminary figures come out at the end of January and the figures are firmed up by the end of March.
It was then discussed by Chairman Friedman that Mary Adams is backing a Tax Payers Bill of Rights, TABOR, and that every community should be mindful of that. Chairman Friedman outlined that it would be nice to see a budget of items that the departments really need to perform basic functions with no new programs. If a new program or service is needed then it should be budgeted separately.
It was noted by all in attendance that if the State Aid to Education figure, some $168,000, goes out the door there is no way the Town can keep the mil rate stable. Manager Reed outlined the possible loss amount plus future estimated educational budget costs would amount to a figure that is greater than most of the Town’s departmental budgets.
Councilor Hathaway outlined that he would like to see a target of half of that 4.3% – 4.8% growth allowance to be budgeted for core services and basic needs, the other half to capital needs and extra programs. Councilor Hathaway also asked what the figure would be. The assessor outlined that he would have to get back to him at a future meeting.
Councilor Champaco asked Superintendent Clenchy and Principal Nichols if the school does have $168,000 that doesn’t get funded, what can the school do. She also asked if the school department has leeway incase this happens. Superintendent Clenchy outlined that he did not think that Veazie would be facing a $168,000 reduction in aid. He also outlined that the school department is always looking at ways of becoming more efficient.
Class size and combining classes was discussed. Principal Nichols outlined that combining classes makes for too large a class. The department is also hoping to hold as many budget lines as they can with the exception of energy and personnel costs. It was also noted that union contracts are up and negotiations will be coming up.
Councilor Champaco outlined that she as a parent can appreciate that smaller classes are better environments, benefit students and helps teachers have less stress to deal with it but at what cost.
It was discussed by Councilor Champaco that some schools, like Hermon for instance, have 4 kindergarten classes, estimated with class sizes of 20+. She outlined that at some point that may be what we have to consider if it ‘straps’ the town. She outlined that she hates to throw it out there but costs are high.
Superintendent Clenchy stated that there is a state statute that says kindergarten should not be over 20 students. It was also discussed that there seems to be more mandates over the years. It was also noted that we have students with more needs these days then 20 years ago.
Principal Nichols outlined that it’s the make up of the group, not the numbers. There are small groups that you could put together that would not be a successful group. A larger percentage of the students that walk through the door have more needs and what the school is required to do has increased a great deal from just a few years ago.
School Committee member Julia Hathaway noted that when she was in school things were the parents’ responsibility to teach their children, like interacting with other children, and to not use drugs. It was only the school’s mandate to teach children reading, writing, arithmetic, etc. More and more mandates now complicate what school funding goes for.
Chairman Friedman outlined that he was glad to hear that the school department was buying things in bulk and regionally in order to save money. It was also discussed that the cafeteria seems to be doing better and that future improvement still need to be made in order to reduce costs.
Councilor Champaco questioned how the situation with students boycotting the hot lunch program was going. Principal Nichols outlined that he believed that most of the children are choosing between hot and cold lunch on the merit of what they want and not the boycott.
Councilor Cheney outlined that she felt for the school, being that there are so many mandates and not enough funding. She outlined that it looked like it would be a tough year and she wished them good luck.
The Town Council thanked everyone for attending the workshop and expressed that they looked forward to the coming budget year.
ITEM 5a. M.R.C. Ballot Selection
It was noted that for the first time in a long time there was only one slot open with multiple people running for the position. Councilor Hathaway expressed support for Representative Keene. The consensus of the Council was to support Keene.
ITEM 6. Comments from the Public
There were no comments from the public.
ITEM 7. Manager’s Report
a. It was noted that Casco Bay Energy may be up for sale and that the Town would be kept informed if a transaction occurred.
b. The Council reviewed a copy of the motor vehicle internet transaction report. Manager Reed outlined that the Town was not at its 15% goal of online transaction for motor vehicle but progress was being made although we seem to be stuck at the 10% level.
c. The Council reviewed a copy of the Town’s website statistics report.
d. The Council reviewed a copy of a thank you note from the school for a framed aerial map from the Town.
e. The Council reviewed a copy of the Bangor Daily News election thank you letter and summary.
f. The Council reviewed a copy of an invitation to a holiday party from State Senator Schneider.
g. The Town Council reviewed an update on the leaf collection. It was noted that the wet weather had ruined the process. The Town also has received a record number of bag equivalents. Leaves also did not fall till late. There were a few people that raked the forested area of their property, at one property Public Works filled their dump truck which is equal to 200 bags of leaves.
Councilor Cheney asked if it would be easier for Public Works if the Town had its own compost area. CEO Allan Thomas stated it would. He outlined that transporting leaves to the University of Maine takes up time. Manager Reed outlined that the ‘catch 22’ is cost.
Councilor Hathaway asked what happened to the site on Bangor Hydro’s property. Manager Reed outlined that once Bangor Hydro came under new ownership they no longer wanted the Town using the site due to furniture and appliances being dumped there.
Councilor Cheney asked what happened to the idea of putting a compost site down by the Sewer District. Manager Reed stated that it would have been too costly on the Town’s limited growth budgets. The Town would have also needed someone to ‘man’ it when it was open and traffic was also an issue.
There was discussion on the Town’s old landfill and a black substance that is leaking from the hill. CEO Allan Thomas outlined that it is most likely black oil that comes from old stumps breaking down in the ground. CES Inc., is looking into the issue and is arranging for the substance to be tested. It was also noted that there are pieces of metal protruding from the hill that need to be addressed.
Assessor Thomas outlined that Veazie Variety will be up for auction on Jan 5th. Councilor Hathaway asked if the Town was inline for back taxes, Deputy Tax Collector outlined that there are no liens on the property, all taxes have been paid except for the current year.
Councilor Cheney asked about the trash on State Street and why it didn’t get picked up. Manager Reed outlined that Public Works should not be stopping or doing work on Route 2 to pick up trash where it is a State owned and maintained roadway, proper signs are needed also. Manager Reed added that CEO Allan Thomas had spoken with Gagne Precast regarding the trash, however the business has had new restructuring and he will need to speak with them again. Most of the trash picked up was wrapping.
ITEM 8. Requests for Information and Town Council Comments
Councilor Champaco outlined that when turning onto Ridgeview from State Street that motorists pass her in the breakdown lane and they are going in excess of the speed limit. Manager Reed stated that he would note that and she should inform the Police Department of the issue too.
Councilor Hathaway stated that he had the proposed Penobscot budget. The proposed mill rate is a decrease of .5%. He will leave it for others to look over. He served as a Budget Committee member this past year.
ITEM 9. Town Warrant 11 & 11A, Town Payroll 11, School Warrant 11 and School Payroll 11 were circulated and signed.
ITEM 10. Adjournment: Motion: Councilor Hathaway—to adjourn the November 28, 2005 Town Council Meeting. Seconded: Councilor Cheney –there was no further discussion. Voted 5-0. Meeting adjourned at 8:26 p.m.