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Scituate Advisory Board, September 3, 2009
Scituate Advisory Board Minutes LHF 9/16/09
September 3, 2009
Bob DeLorenzo, Chairman, called meeting to order at 7:00 PM
The primary purpose of tonight’s meeting is to meet our new Town Administrator, Patricia Vinchesi, and to discuss our working relationship and the state of the Town.
B.D. reported that Jean Martin will be returning as our recording secretary. He introduced P.V., briefly explained the role of our committee and the logistics of how we’ve operated in the past, and asked how the Advisory Committee could best serve her in her new role.
P.V. explained that she has been researching the ways her dept’s have been operating, that every town has unique approaches to local gov’t. and that she’s been learning the lay of the land. She is accustomed to having financial committees challenge her to defend her choices and welcomes a more involved role. She has instituted new processes; she and Jane will be meeting often to assess estimated rec’ts to track where Town is heading. New Growth is off as expected from projections. Local Aid was cut for 2010, 5 Union contacts have expired, the Town risks another 9C cut (Prior Accounts Continued – what gov’t can do after budgeting), and we have a $380K deficit, may have ~ $280 in available transfers, a bond needs to be floated after the 1st of the year and will likely reduce our rating. She’s a strong believer in Reserves and believes Free Cash should not be depended on for operating costs. She’ll pursue flat budgets and depts. that show ability to manage well will get support for new initiatives and funding. P.V. feels strongly that we need to improve our IT, that municipal applications & information sources be centralized and accessible, Local gov’t is a service and the services must be aligned to meet the needs of different types of customers. Given ~ 80% of budget is payroll, collective bargaining is paramount. CPA is a tremendous asset showing deficits exist in some areas but so does great potential.
The AC introduced themselves and their primary concerns/goals:
Maura repeated IT concerns and would like AC to be able to stop working “bottom up” and instead be more collaborative with TA, Town & BOS.
Karen voiced concerns regarding building/space issues: SR Ctr, Gates, Town Hall, etc. and work towards better utilization of town owned buildings and land.
CC’s concern is that our source of revenues is too limited – other towns work harder to write grants & seek out stimulus money – Scituate needs to do more than rely on the taxpayer. CC asked what are our fiscal milestones. What does PV suggest to make up for the shortfall and what the specifics are regarding 9C reduction?
PV addressed certain revenue drivers as well as key expenses that can be tracked to identify trends in economy such as building permit revenues and defined 9C. Two areas to address deficit could be the increase in unemployment that did not occur as well as much as $85K that may not need to be paid on the Quin Bill but legislation is not consistent and PV is reluctant to use it. Regarding KC bldg question, PV is surprised at the condition of some of the bldgs, Town rec’d Green Communities(?) Grant for bldg audits. Will begin collaborative/regional approaches to infrastructure needs and utilize state bid to streamline processes.
CC mentioned reviewing line items such as subscriptions for each dept every year and suggested finding materials online.
PV favors quarterly encumbrances i/o annual outlays for better managing of these line items.
AA shared his years of service in DPW and suggested that given his working relationship with TA’s over the years that he would like to offer his expertise and historical perspective as it relates to Town budgeting.
LF voiced her goals of less rubber stamping budgets and more research and engagement on long term financial initiatives such as regionalizing, consolidating Town depts. as well as economic development in Scituate.
B.D. shared that the primary reason he stayed on is to work with the new TA and find ways for the AC to add value to the municipal process. He asked if PV will have a unique process directive regarding dept budgets and suggested that in the private sector, we are often forced to a different model in order to succeed and asked if we collectively could be part of a movement towards a different model.
PV welcomed the offer and stated we will see clear directives with detailed instructions to her dept heads, we won’t see telephone, fuel and other shared services as separate line items anymore and there will be a long term revenue & expense forecast. As for funding necessary costs such as IT, assumptions can be made such as personnel costs, pensions, health, etc. and the discretionary spending will be limited, so the work will be in finding sources for such costs when there is no money. She is a proponent of regionalization and says frankly most of her experience has been in small western MA towns where communities have no choice but to regionalize and take advantage of economies of scale, but needs to feel out how the community feels, that it can be a sensitive topic and she would start small, find successes and build to bigger initiatives. Things like animal control & recycling have already been regionalized in neighboring communities like Cohasset and Norwell.
Mr. Paley suggested the town has often been asked to share services but is repeatedly torpedoed by TH. He also offered that with regard to economic development, every other neighboring town has developed on route 3A but Scituate considers the greenbelt sacrosanct.
PV suggested that Town Meeting is the best venue to float and decide these matters.
BD discussed the idea of sponsoring a “State of the Town” meeting to discuss the status of our finances as well as an opportunity to meet PV & the new SPS superintendent.
PV would welcome the idea.
Mr. Paley discussed that the Town Charter dictates many of the above initiatives but is not and has never been taken seriously and asked that we all read and become familiar with the Charter.
BD thanked PV and JL for attending. There will be a Special Town Meeting Nov. 2nd. AC will meet 9/17, 10/1 and 10/8. He is still following up with Rich Bowen on new appointees to the 3 open AC positions.
Maura suggested alerting him that our first working session would be 9/17, we need a full roster to assign liaison positions, etc.
BD discussed assigning special projects to each member.
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