Hopkinton Budget Committee
October 11, 2006
Present: Chairman 05-06 Barbara Unger, Jane Bradstreet, Danny Coen, Patrice Gerseny, Karen Irwin, David Lancaster, Peter Russell – Selectmen’s Representative, Tom O’Donnell – Hopkinton Village Precinct Representative, Bob Carpenter – Contoocook Village Precinct Representative.
Marshall Rowe – School Board Representative was excused from the meeting.
Chairman 05-06 Unger called the meeting to order at 6:00 pm in the Hopkinton Town Hall.
Chairman Unger noted that the board needed to elect a chairman for the 06-07 year. Nominations were made:
Peter Russell nominated Barbara Unger, seconded by Tom O’Donnell.
Danny Coen nominated Karen Irwin, seconded by Tom O’Donnell.
Both accepted and at the suggestion of Peter Russell a secret ballot vote was taken. The votes were tallied by the secretary: Barbara Unger – 3. Karen Irwin – 6.
Barbara Unger turned the meeting over to Karen Irwin. Barbara noted that Brian Blake, Superintendent of Schools had to leave early. Peter also stated he had to leave early as well.
Karen began the meeting discussing a budget cap then deferred to the school representatives Michelle Clark, SAU 66 Business Administrator and Brian Blake Superintendent.
Budget Update School Board
Mr. Brian Blake gave the committee a brief history of himself before arriving in Hopkinton. He explained that the school budgets are currently being prepared by the Principals in each school. Most of the school budget, about 85 %, is contractual issues.
Michelle Clark gave the dates – November 21 and December 5 - the school board will be discussing the budget. December 19 - when they will finalize the budget and vote. A School Budget document will then be prepared for the Budget Committee for meetings in January and February. These are regularly scheduled meetings and do not include work sessions.
Danny Coen asked about getting a statement from the SAU on projected revenues for the upcoming year and the use of revolving funds for the revenue producers. Ms. Clark noted the SAU has sent requests to the state Dept. of Revenue concerning the use of revolving funds and has not received any response. Revolving funds do not affect tax rate. Ms. Clark used the driver ed program as an example of revenues within the school system that is self funded. The second example was food service which does not break even and is supplemented $37,500 from the tax rate. The fees charged for school lunch are set by the school board. Supplements received from the federal government are preset across the state.
Karen Irwin mentioned that she would like an evaluation of the revenue for both the school and town and maybe have a presentation of the revenues.
Mr. Blake responded to Tom O’Donnell’s inquiry about the contracts and bond issues. Mr. Blake did not know the percentage of budget concerned contracts. Mr. Blake did note that the facilities committee presented their final report on school buildings needs. Substantial changes were needed at all buildings and the school board is meeting with the architect about options tomorrow night at a school board work session. Discussions are just beginning about the buildings.
Mr. Coen asked the cost of tuition in Hopkinton. Mr. Blake noted the tuition cost is $9,000.00 - $10,000.00 and follows state regulations. Mr. Coen offered the tuition amount could be determined by the total budget divided by the number of students. Hopkinton School has a budget of $13 million and 1,051 students.
Budget Update Selectmen
Peter noted that the selectmen do not believe there will be any surplus in this years’ budget. He believes the selectmen should prepare a budget that is fiscally prudent and responsible to the community rather than one that is tied to a budget cap percentage increase. The selectmen will issue guidelines as to pay increments. They have surveyed surrounding communities to see what’s low, what’s high and what’s median with like job descriptions. The budget to be presented by the selectmen will be very simple for them due to the work that has been on going.
As of January 1, 2007 it will be simpler due to a new accounting program that will track revenues and expenditures for each department so the town will be able to see exactly what it costs to do business.
Mr. Russell noted that the Selectmen have a booklet that has a 3 – 5 year plan prepared by each department head for each town department. He noted that the selectmen will get a narrative of expenditures at the end of the year by each of the department heads along with the budgets. David Lancaster requested the list from the selectmen of budget items that were not purchased this year.
Mr. Russell fielded general questions concerning purchases were budgeted for in the lines and not purchased. He gave a hypothetical example of a fire department planning to purchase three sets of turn out gear and a truck loses its’ transmission. The immediate need is to get the transmission fixed, an unexpected and necessary expense, and the turn out gear doesn’t get purchased.
The Budget Target
Karen Irwin offered a number of 3.8% cap increase. Jane Bradstreet requested clarification in laymen terms. Ms. Irwin explained the CPI for this year was 3.8% for all cities.
Mr. Coen would like the department heads to come before the committee with their budgets. Mr. Russell feels the Selectmen should present the budget to the budget committee and have the department heads present at the budget committee meeting to answer any questions. After discussion it was recommended that the department heads should be present to answer questions when their budgets were presented and the Budget Committee should give department heads some direction to prepare their budgets.
Mr. Coen requested to have the town finance director, Bob Blanchette, present at all committee meetings. Ms. Bradstreet recommended sending a formal request through the selectmen to have the finance director present. Also send a formal request to the school board that all principals be present. At this point Mr. Lancaster requested a copy of the 3 – 5 year plan from the selectmen to be sent to the board homes.
Mr. Lancaster expressed a potential need for budget committee members go to meetings of the other committees. Ms. Irwin will forward a complete list of all meetings to the board members. Ms. Gerseny would like each departments proposed budgets up to a week before the scheduled meeting for discussion. Mr. Coen would like to have a list, line item by line item rather that the single sheet stating the budget. The members discussed their obligation to the taxpayer with the need for more detailed information.
Mr. Lancaster raised a point of whether they should be look at the budget including warrant articles and the totality of spending in each department.
The committee examined the process used last year to determine the cap and what should be used this year and whether the committee would be willing to stick to the cap. Percentages used to determine a cap were from a Federal website that looked at urban New England increases in the consumer price index - CPI. Ms. Irwin explained that the state of NH takes into consideration salary increases, travel expenses, health care expenses. Ms. Gerseny and Mr. Coen recommend looking at the expenditures. All members agreed the preparers should examine all budget increases for example, fuel increase, health care increase, heating costs increase rather than taking the total budget and overall increasing it a certain amount. Ms. Bradstreet said efforts made last year to hold increase to 3.5% didn’t work. Mr. Lancaster suggests looking at
what is actually cut when asked to cut. Because when the school board talks about cutting the budget, it is cutting the leadership teams' proposed budget, and some of these cuts may be to items that are not really necessary. Ms. Bradstreet suggested the budget committee needs to make the hard choices, if necessary for departments. Ms. Clark was asked if the 3.5% recommended increase last year had any effect on the school boards budget and she responded saying it made it so they it wasn’t a bigger number and she believed it was a motivating factor.
Mr. Coen moved, Ms. Bradstreet seconded, that the chairman send letter setting forth budget guidelines to the board of selectmen, school board, library trustees as well as the precincts, Hopkinton and Contoocook. Passed.
Ms. Bradstreet moved, Ms. Gerseny seconded a target increase of 3.8% to all department budgets not a cap. Discussion followed making it clear this was a budget target increase not a tax cap. The departments need to examine what they are cutting. Passed with one nay.
Ms. Irwin was asked about what the budget committee could legally do. Mr. Lancaster suggested the town legal counsel be present at the final meeting as well as the town meeting so lay people aren’t making legal decisions. Ms. Irwin stated she attended an informative seminar on local government and will have copies of the literature for the board members. Also as needed she will get together issues to present to town legal counsel.
Mr. Lancaster would like to suggest a policy to the selectmen not to hold more than 5% of any surplus. The rest should be returned to reduce any future tax increase. Mr. Coen stated it would be better addressed as a petitioned warrant article at the annual town meeting.
Mr. Carpenter related that a number of people can identify the tax impact of items. It was suggested that the tax impact be part of the warrant explanations rather than part of the warrant itself. This would inform the voters of the tax impact their vote will have.
With no further business to discuss the meeting was adjourned at 8:00 pm.