August 24, 2010

WARRANT & FINANCE COMMITTEE WORKSHOP AUGUST 24, 2010                                                                                                 APPROVED

 

A.        ROLL CALL                                           

 

            Members present were:            Debi Rix

Karl Hodgdon                                     

                                                            John Moore

                                                            Andy Brazier

                                                            Paul Poyant

                                                                                                                       

            Members absent were:  Roger Roy       

 

Also present were Dennis Long and Richard Neal.       

                                                                             

B.         APPROVAL OF MINUTES

 

No Minutes were approved.

 

C.        NEW BUSINESS

 

Workshop Regarding Duties/Mission/Procedures for the Warrant & Finance Committee – Mr. Poyant advised that he has some questions he would like to share and have answered.

 

1.         Are there any procedures or instruction material for this Committee, what are the rolls of the Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and the Members.

 

Mr. Hodgdon explained that some of Mr. Poyant’s questions can be answered by reading Article 55 of the March, 1986 Annual Town Meeting Warrant.  He explained some of what Mr. Poyant is asking is contained in that Article such as the Board of Selectmen are non-voting Members of the Warrant & Finance Committee.  It is his feeling that since they are Members, they should be present at all the Committee’s Meetings and participate in the Committee’s discussions.

 

At this time there was a brief discussion regarding the use of laptop computers during the Committee’s Meetings with Ms Rix referencing a prior situation when a Committee Member used a computer during their review of the 2010-11 school budget.  It was decided that computers can be used at Meetings for Committee business and that any request by the public for a copy of the information on the computers will be honored in a timely fashion.

 

2.         Mr. Poyant stated at another meeting in Town, there was a computer, projector and screen which made it easy to see and understand what was being discussed at that meeting.  He asked if that equipment could be made available for this Committee’s use as he felt it would be helpful during the budgeting process so  the audience can see what the Committee is working on.

 

            Mr. Long advised the Town owns that equipment, therefore, it is available for the use of any board or committee.

 

Mr. Poyant advised he would be willing to set up the equipment when needed.

 

3.         Mr. Poyant referenced Article 55 of the March, 1986 Annual Town Meeting as it refers to the Warrant & Finance Committee’s function and responsibilities.  The Article indicates that there will be six Members to be nominated [on the Annual Town Meeting floor] for two-year periods with three Members being voted into office every year.  A quorum will be four Committee Members.  Meetings can be called by either the Board of Selectmen or the Chairman of the Committee.  All financial Warrant Articles are to be approved by the Committee.  As stated above, the Board of Selectmen are non-voting Members of the Committee which means they should be present at the Committee’s Meetings.

 

Ms Rix mentioned that Selectperson Crockett advised her that she and Selectman Kryzak would be out of Town this evening and Selectmen Shields, who was recently elected, had a commitment he made prior to being elected. 

 

4.         Mr. Poyant stated given that a Committee Member can’t be sure whether his/her e-mail has been received by the other Members, he suggested that the recipients respond to the e-mails with just an OK or the like so there will be no doubt that the message has been received.

 

It was the consensus of the members present that they would do so.

 

5.         Mr. Poyant felt the Committee should have policies and procedures such as those being developed by the Board of Selectmen.  He stated he would like to know how to interact with Townspeople, etc. outside of Meetings and if three Members  are in the same place at the same time, can they discuss Committee business?

 

Ms Rix replied in the affirmative because three Members don’t constitute a quorum.  She said she didn’t think there would too many instances when four Members would be together outside a Meeting, therefore, she felt that might be a moot point. 

 

At this time, the secretary advised that most of Mr. Poyant’s questions are answered in some documentation that SMRPC uses in their Boardmanship Workshops.  She stated she would get that information and make copies for all the Members.

           

Mr. Poyant explained one of his goals is to obtain background information so he will have an idea of how the Committee works during the budget process and what is expected of them.

 

6.         Regarding interaction with each other and the public, Ms Rix said it is her hope that the Committee will conduct themselves in a professional, respectful and ethical manner both to each other and the public.  She stated when someone is speaking, there should be no interrupting and if someone has something they want to share or explain, they should wait until the individual who is talking finishes what he/she has to say.

 

7.         Mr. Poyant stated it would be nice if there was a Welcome Packet for new Members.  He said it would be helpful if past Warrants were included so that a new Member will know what has been done in the past. 

 

8.         At this time, there was a brief discussion regarding the timing of the Committee’s receipt of budget material both from the school and the Selectmen.  It was noted that there were times a proposed budget was given to the Committee at a Meeting and they were asked to comment or vote on it without having the opportunity to review it.  It was mentioned that while the municipal budget is generally submitted to the Committee in February, having it earlier would alleviate some of the time crunches that have occurred in the past.  While a similar comment was made about the school budget, Mr. Brazier, the school’s Building Maintenance Supervisor, gave a brief description of when the school begins its budgeting process and didn’t think it could be done any earlier with Mr. Hodgdon giving a brief explanation of what occurred when the Committee was reviewing the 2010-11 school budget.

 

Mr. Brazier felt this Committee should attend the school budget meetings so that they will be aware of how the School Committee compiles its information and how they arrive at the figures they submit to this Committee.  He mentioned that Mr. Moore was at every School Committee meeting, therefore, he was aware of what the School Committee decided prior to his being given the draft budget.

 

Ms Rix stated that any Member of this Committee is free to attend any School Committee meeting as a resident, but not as a Warrant & Finance Committee representative.  She explained in order to make what was submitted by the School Committee clearer during the last budget review, she and a former Member developed spreadsheets because what they got from the School Committee was not in a form that would allow them to make the necessary comparisons.  She advised she spoke with the Financial Director, Carlene Doyle, when she needed to have something clarified and she was very helpful.  She mentioned that she asked Ms Doyle if it would be possible to keep the departments in a form so they could be easily identified, but as she recalls, she didn’t receive a response.  She said she will follow up prior to the Committee’s review of the 2011-12 school budget to see if something can be done to make the review process easier.  She stated that would also be helpful when the Committee reviews the municipal budget. 

 

At this time, there was a brief discussion about the time limits associated with reviewing, approving and printing the Warrant Articles.

 

9.         Mr. Poyant referenced the Committee’s work on the school budget for this budget year and their suggestions concerning the contracts the school has with the teachers, etc.. 

 

            Mr. Brazier pointed out that this Committee was given copies of most of the contracts and Mr. Kryzak, when he was a School Committee Member, explained that you can’t negotiate a contract with predetermined intentions as that would not be negotiating in good faith.

 

            Ms Rix said doesn’t he think the teachers go into the negotiations after discussing what they will request with their union representatives.  She advised this Committee made a point of telling Mr. Kryzak that they would be looking at certain things and they hoped the School Committee would take those points to the negotiating table.  She mentioned some of the items this Committee looked at closely were health insurance and pay raises which were costing the Town a good deal of money.  She stated the School Committee represents the Townspeople, therefore, they should be negotiating contracts that aren’t a burden on the Town.  She said it was this Committee’s hope that the School Committee negotiators took that into consideration.  She mentioned that contract negotiations are always a compromise.

 

Mr. Moore stated the problem is that the contract negotiations are done before the Town Meeting.  He said at no time do the voters have a say about the contracts which he felt was out of balance.  He mentioned the union goes into negotiations knowing what they will request, but understanding they will have to negotiate.  He advised that generally both sides go into the negotiations looking for more than they expect to get because they know they will probably have to come down during the negotiation discussions.  He stated if the voters don’t approve the school budget even though the contracts have already been signed, the School Committee will have to make some hard decisions about where they can cut the budget so that it will fit into the voter’s idea of what it should be.

 

Ms Rix pointed out since there were items in the contracts that could not be adjusted, the only two items this Committee felt it could deal with were health insurance and salary since the School Committee had reduced things like supplies as much as they could.  She said in a comparison between Acton and other school districts such as Sanford, Massabesic and SAD 60, it was found that Acton exceeded them all in salary and benefits.  She mentioned that the support staff contract was negotiated this year because they didn’t want to do it at the same time as the teachers’ contract which will be done this year.  She stated across the country, school committees worked with teachers and support staff to renegotiate certain contract items because they told the unions they didn’t have the funds to pay what the contracts specified.

 

To Mr. Poyant’s comment that once a contract is signed, it is expected that the provisions will be followed, therefore, the time to do anything is prior to the signing of the contract, Ms Rix advised that is what the Town can’t do.  She reiterated that the School Committee is supposed to be working for the taxpayers and not the teachers.

 

Mr. Poyant pointed out there are other ways to address hard financial times such as furlough days, etc. which might make it possible for people to retain their jobs.  He said doing that is not disrespectful to the employees, but address the difficult economy.

 

To Ms Rix’s question whether the support staff contract has been concluded, Mr. Brazier advised if it hasn’t, it is almost completed.  Ms Rix advised she would check on it.  She felt that one Selectman and a Town resident should be members of  the negotiating committee together with whomever the School Committee chooses from their ranks. 

 

To Ms Rix’s question whether there is an attorney advising the School Committee during the negotiations, Mr. Long answered in the negative and mentioned that sometimes there is an arbitrator.

 

Mr. Poyant explained that in the private business world department heads are given a figure that they must adhere to.  He asked if  this Committee can tell the School Committee that their budget has to be within certain parameters like is done for the municipal budget or can this Committee give the School Committee some guidance concerning the contract negotiations?

 

To Mr. Brazier’s comment that the School Committee represents the children, Ms Rix agreed, but added they have to think about what the Town can afford.  She said she doesn’t know anyone who doesn’t want their child get a good education, but more money doesn’t buy one. 

 

D.        OTHER BUSINESS

 

1.         Committee Membership – Ms Rix advised she attempted to contact Mr. Roy, but was unsuccessful.  She said she would telephone him again and if she didn’t get any results, she would send him a letter asking whether he wished to continue being a Member of this Committee.

 

2.         Agendas – It was decided that an agenda would be posted for all Meetings so that everyone will be aware of the work that will be conducted at any Meeting.

 

3.         Public Participation – Mr. Brazier felt that the public should be able to participate or ask questions at every Meeting of this Committee which is something that didn’t occur during the budget process for this fiscal year.  He felt it was disrespectful to the people present not hear what they have to say.

 

            He was advised that traditionally the only people who participate in a workshop Meeting are the Members of whatever board or committee is conducting the workshop and that the rule is if the Committee wishes to hear from someone during a workshop, a vote must be taken to allow it.

 

Mr. Brazier felt that if a Committee motion is necessary, he would be willing to make one at the beginning of every workshop with Mr. Moore expressing his agreement. 

 

Ms Rix advised that is what will occur in the future.

 

E.         NEXT MEETING

 

At this time, the Committee decided to meet on Monday, September 13, 2010, at 6:00 PM at the Town Hall when committee assignments will be discussed.

 

F.         ADJOURNMENT

 

The Meeting was adjourned at 9:45 PM.

 

                                                                                    Respectfully submitted,

           

 

                                                                                    ______________________________

                                                                                    ANNA M. WILLIAMS,

                                                                                    Recording Secretary