SELECTMEN’S MEETING

JANUARY 23, 2003

 

Chairman Perkins called the meeting to order at 6:30 PM.

Selectman Rogers, Selectman Wiksten and Selectwoman Brunelle were present.

Selectman Eayrs arrived at 6:35 PM.

 

HEARINGS, MEETINGS & LICENSES

Review Town Manager’s letter & memo to the Superintendent – RE: Budget Cuts

The Board reviewed a memo and a letter that was sent to the Superintendent by Mr. Healey. The Superintendent, who was present, provided a response to the Board tonight. Joe Masi, Chairman of the School Committee, and Robert Sullivan, Assistant Superintendent, were also present.

The meeting was being held to arrive at an understanding to share the pain of dealing with cuts, and other growing costs.

Ms. Walsh told the Board that there are laws regarding the Foundation Budget and Net School Spending Figure. Any cuts to the school department budget are limited to an amount that will not cause the school department budget to drop below the required Foundation Budget or Net School Spending (NSS) amount of $24,105,968. Therefore, budget cuts to the school department in FY’03 are limited to $355,705.

Discussion ensued on the "95% rule". Mr. Healey said he is trying to get clarification regarding this. Ms. Walsh maintains that the rule does not allow all districts to appropriate less than the full amount of the spending requirement. She also told the Board that any cuts would have to be approved by Town Meeting.

Mr. Healey believes that the Town can entertain deeper cuts if necessary. He said that 5% of $24 million is $1.2 million. This would be a substantial cut. Mr. Healey said that the State cuts could be well over $4 million.

Mr. Healey said the General Government would have to lay off more than ½ of its staff, plus 2 more to pay for unemployment. The result would be 3 of 4 general government employees cut.

Chairman Perkins noted that every budget is approved by Town Meeting. He said any reductions would result in a floor fight. He said that no one at the table wants to reduce education money, but he is not sure there will be much of a choice.

Chairman Perkins told the Board that the legislature is looking at changing some laws regarding mandates. He said he agreed with Mr. Healey that, if the numbers stick, there will be no Town government left, and a school system that is barely hanging on by a thread.

Ms. Walsh said she was not pleading the case of the budget. She said she wanted to make it clear that, whatever the foundation number is, the Town is obligated to fund at that level. If not, sanctions could be applied and reductions could be made for the next fiscal year.

Ms. Walsh told the Board that she has already suggested the following actions to be taken by the school department:

    1. Freeze all non-essential General Expense spending unless required for direct instruction of children.
    2. Freeze all new hiring and hiring of replacement personnel (for a period of 30 days) unless personnel are involved with direct instruction of children.
    3. Meet with all Employee Bargaining Groups and ask them to consider "give backs" in wages and health insurance.
    4. Calculate probable revenues from fees – athletics, transportation, music, summer school and full-day kindergarten.
    5. Freeze all Professional Development unless prior commitment has been made to staff.
    6. Explore reorganization of administrative roles.
    7. Explore incentives for early retirement.

Ms. Walsh noted that, as of this date, the Special Education obligations are running with a deficit of over $130,000. She expected this could be as much as $250,000 by June.

Chairman Perkins asked if anything could be done with the SPED. Ms. Walsh said the costs are "out of control". She said the amount of children requiring nursing is growing, as well as the number of psychiatric disabilities. She said she expects changes from the legislators, including a relaxation of the transportation mandate.

Mr. Healey noted, that at the $600 million level, the cut will equate to a 5% cut in Local Aid (State Receipts). For Middleborough, this amounts of $840,735. With the school departments reduction of $355,000 this would still leave a shortfall of over $485,000 for the general government.

Discussion ensued on developing a "game plan" to deal with the shortfall, and potential cuts that would have to be made by the school department.

Chairman Perkins asked Mr. Masi if the School Committee is developing a plan with the Administration in the event cuts have to be made.

Mr. Masi said the Committee realizes that there will have to be, and the Central Office will make those decisions. He said the Committee is intent on looking at the areas that may have been overlooked before (maintenance) and those areas and programs showing improvement in MCAS. He said the Committee wants to make sure those programs stay in place.

Ms. Walsh said that the school department had cut $1 million last year, from maintenance and supplies, and is being forced to cut an additional $350,000 now. She has given instructions not to purchase any more supplies. She said this is causing a hardship.

Chairman Perkins told Ms. Walsh that the Board has been looking at the possibility of privatizing some Town services. He asked if there were any areas the school department could look at.

Ms. Walsh said privatizing food services would actually cost more, and result in a management problem.

Chairman Perkins asked about custodial services. Ms. Walsh said she has been in districts that had outside service, and there was no quality in the work. She said for what you save, if anything, it may not be worth it.

Selectwoman Brunelle asked about the adult education program. Ms. Walsh said these programs have been self-supporting for the past two (2) years.

Chairman Perkins asked that everyone keep the lines of communication open. He said this will not be easy.

Ms. Walsh, Mr. Masi and Dr. Sullivan left the meeting at this time.

Mr. Healey asked the Board for direction.

Selectwoman Brunelle said she was confused by the figures that were given to the Board regarding the percentage of the Town’s fiscal year ’03 budget attribute to schools and general government. Chairman Perkins asked Mr. Healey to get clarification.

Mr. Healey said he is not asking for numbers, or a percentage. He said it is the concept that the burden must be shared according to the size of the budgets.

Mr. Healey said that the Chapter 70 and Net School Spending Foundation Budgets are driven by the McDuffy case. He said this is not the law, as the case was never concluded. Instead, the State entered into an agreement.

Chairman Perkins said legislation could eliminate this problem.

Selectman Wiksten said the State should freeze Net School Spending. Mr. Healey said he had spoken to our State Rep and was told they can’t do this.

Chairman Perkins suggested looking at privatizing services, including janitorial services, Town-wide.

Selectwoman Brunelle also suggested having employees do a direct deposit. She said this would save a considerable amount of money, including paper costs and manpower. She said this might have to go to the Unions.

Selectwoman Brunelle also suggested looking at a debt exclusion on existing debt, as opposed to an override. Mr. Healey said Judy MacDonald is looking at this. Selectwoman Brunelle said that the question needs to go on the ballot. She said she would also suggest a question for a general override for operational purposes.

Upon motion by Selectwoman Brunelle and seconded by Selectman Rogers, the Board

VOTED: To deal with any shortfall or cutbacks required by the State in a proportional level relative to the School Department and the General Government.

Unanimous Vote.

NEW BUSINESS

Request to Rent Town Hall Auditorium – Hell’s Blazes Tavern

Upon motion by Selectman Eayrs and seconded by Selectwoman Brunelle, the Board

VOTED: To approve the request made by Hell’s Blazes Tavern to rent the Town Hall on Saturday, January 25, 2003 from 4:00 PM to 12:00 Midnight for a Christmas Party for the Christmas Tree Shop.

Unanimous Vote.

Request for One Day Liquor License – Hell’s Blazes Tavern

Upon motion by Selectman Eayrs and seconded by Selectwoman Brunelle, the Board

VOTED: To approve the request made by Hell’s Blazes Tavern for a one day liquor license for Saturday, January 25, 2003 from 4:00 PM to 12:00 Midnight for a Christmas Party for the Christmas Tree Shop to be held at the Town Hall.

Unanimous Vote.

Selectman Wiksten noted that the applicant will be required to hire a Police Officer for the function.

OTHER BUSINESS

VOTED: To send a letter to the Planning Board requesting they hold a hearing relative to amending the Middleborough Zoning By-Laws, Section IX, Development Opportunities District.

Unanimous Vote.

VOTED: To resubmit the application made by R.P.’s Stage Stop for a transfer of a liquor license from C.J.’s Stage Stop.

Unanimous Vote.

VOTED: To approve the request made by the Town Manager to spend $950 from the Selectmen’s ‘Engineering’ Line Item to have Cullinan Engineering and Field Engineering draft a survey plan for the Centre Avenue abandoned road section.

Unanimous Vote.

It was suggested to immediately curtail the use of SEMASS for trash disposal. Instead, trash will be taken to the landfill. This could produce a savings of $50,000 - $55,000 for this year.

Selectwoman Brunelle said she would like to see, in writing, approval from SEMASS and the DEP. She also asked Mr. Healey to get the figures for having bi-weekly trash pick-up.

Selectman Wiksten said the Board needs to "fast track" trash fees. He said this needs to be a simple process, without a lot of paperwork.

Another suggestions was to "temporarily curtail" (for the duration of the Budget Crisis) recycling collection at curbside and ask residents to use the drop-off center at the Landfill. The two truckdriver laborers would "replace" tow of the three unfilled truck driver laborer positions at the Highway Department, and help to keep them unfilled next year. This would save an estimated $7,650 over the next five (5) months and $18,350 next year.

The Board agreed with this recommendation, asking that it begin March 1st.

Discussion ensued on the suggestion to curtail Saturday (Holiday) collections of trash (with the exception of Christmas/New Year’s collection). This would save an estimated $3,375 over the next five (5) months and $11,220 next year.

Upon motion by Selectwoman Brunelle and seconded by Selectman Eayrs, the Board

VOTED: To eliminate the extra holiday pick up on Saturdays except for Christmas and New Years.

Unanimous Vote.

The Board discussed the suggestion to implement a Tag and Bag or another type of charge system to recover trash collection costs next year. The Board agreed immediate steps should begin now.

Chairman Perkins asked Mr. Healey to start looking at the costs of privatizing janitorial services in Town.

The Board will ask the Treasurer/Collector to look at what the cost savings would be if all employees were required to have direct deposit.

Upon motion by Selectman Rogers and seconded by Selectman Wiksten, the Board

VOTED: To reconsider the previous vote regarding trash pick up on Saturdays.

Unanimous Vote.

Upon motion by Selectman Wiksten and seconded by Selectman Rogers, the Board

VOTED: To eliminate one (1) truck (2 employees) for the Saturday pickups.

Unanimous Vote.

 

Upon motion by Selectwoman Brunelle and seconded by Selectman Eayrs, the Board

VOTED: To adjourn at 7:30 PM.

Unanimous Vote.

 

 

Diane Henault, Secretary

BOARD OF SELECTMEN