December 05, 2016

Minutes of Warrant-Finance Committee for 2016.12.05

The meeting was called to order by the Chairperson at 1815h
Present:  W.L. Williams, Member and Chairperson
                   J. Driscoll, Member
                   L. Michaud, Alternate acting as full member
                   T. Cashin, Member
Absent:    R.T. Gore, Member and Secretary
                   S. Cognata, Member
                   N. Ruma, Member
                   R. Waterhouse, Alternate

There being a quorum, the committee was prompted to continue with the scheduled meeting
    1. The minutes of the November, 2016, meeting were not yet available and will be presented at the next meeting..
    2. The Chairperson reminded all members to complete the readings of Maine freedom of information law and sign the certificate/document that it has been accomplished and placed in each member’s dossier.
    3. The Chairperson then opened the discussion in stating that:
    a. During the 2016-2017 budget process no one vetted the recipients for public donations except on an informal basis.  This segment of the budget now encompasses approx. $70,000.
    b. In these labile financial times it is expected that social service requests from agencies in the county will increase in the future.
    c. Organizations requesting public donations submit a variety of application requests varying from detailed financials to simple public relation-type documents.
    d. The W-F Committee should simplify and make uniform in a non-political way the process of vetting such requests for the Board of Selectmen (BOS) and the voting public.
    e. All recipients placed in a warrant for donations must have been vetted by whatever mechanism deemed appropriate by the BOS.
    f. The initial step should be the development of a universal application for funds and a standard method for the  BOS and voting public to accept donation requests and act on such requests in the appropriate legislative town meeting.
    g. The Warrant-Finance Committee gladly accepts their responsibility of vetting such donation recipients with the members of the BOS or as the agent for the BOS.
    h. Voters can legally lower the suggested amount of any donation for a recipient approved by the W-F Committee and the BOS which is placed before them in a town meeting.  Such a meeting, however, cannot raise the donation amount nor add new recipients in such a meeting.
    4. The Committee then went into discussions regarding the draft application submitted.  
    a. There was unanimous consensus that the  question re whether this is a renewal request or a new request must be made;  all recipients should realize that this application must be completed annually regardless of whether such an application has been submitted previously.  This application must be completed and submitted to the W-F Committee prior to being given an appointment for interview.
    b. The question about listing contacts that the requesting organization has with any member of Acton town government would not include any specific identifying client information but merely allow
the Committee to inquire of the town official whether the organization is easy to work with and quick to respond to need.
    c. The question about those recipients who provide educational training for students was discussed and it was felt these programs were extremely important for the town and appropriate to be asked and promoted.
    d.  Discussion also involved asking about administrative overhead.  It was agreed that organizations that have 20% or greater of its budget going into administrative costs should be questioned extensively why such is the case.
    e. There was unanimous consensus that it was important to know whether a requesting organization has other funding such as grants, internally generated funds, or individual donations in addition to public donations to fund their budget needs.

Throughout the discussion the group was unanimous that the following principles be maintained:
    a. All requesting organizations will be given the same application form to be completed each fiscal year regardless of whether such applications have been previously submitted.  Thus an application is valid for only one fiscal year.
    b. All requesting donations will be vetted by the W-F Committee.  The vetting process will therefore be application, followed by a face-to-face interview by the Committee using the application at hand for posing questions of concern or explanation.  
    c.  Thus, the  application must be returned in time for the committee to view the information before the interview process can be scheduled.
    d. The committee as a whole wishes to participate in the interview vetting process.  If there are extenuating circumstances and unique difficulties for an organization to send an appropriate person to discuss the application at the times available, arrangements can be made by W&F Committee to send at least two members of he committee to the headquarters of the requesting organization for a face-to-face interview in their center of administration.
    e. Internally the W_F Committee will categorize donation requests into one of six categories for statistical purposes only.  These categories include:  HEALTH; SOCIAL WELFARE &SAFETY NET;  PUBLIC SAFETY;  ENVIRONMENT & WATER QUALITY; TOWN RECREATION; OTHER
    f. The vetting procedure must be as objective and free of politics as possible based on the requesting organizations’ service to the Town of Acton and its citizens.  Likewise it is important that citizens have more voice in the process, and therefore making each recipient a separate article in the budget warrant may be a way of effecting such a improvement.
    g. It was realized that more donation recipients may be added in the future and that some donations may be taken out of the donation category and placed in town departmental line items.

    5. A motion to accept the application document was made by Mr. Driscoll and seconded by Mr. Cashin. It was carried unanimously.
    6. A motion to allow the chairperson to edit in accordance with the discussions and re-type the application by the Town Clerk into an application format was made by T. Cashin and seconded by L. Michaud.  It was carried unanimously.
    7. The chairperson will send the finalized copy to all members for their review.  The application will then be sent to the BOS so that it can be used for the upcoming budget cycle for FY 2017-2018.
The meeting was adjourned by unanimous consent at 1910h.