Nathan Media Center
Fuller Meadow School
March 1st, 2011
Call to Order – Chairperson Lindberg called the meeting to order at 7:30. Present: Mr. Cresta, Mr. Houten, Ms. Jones, Mr. Prentakis and Town Administrator Mr. Singer.
With great sadness, Chairman Lindberg announced the passing of long-time resident Sandy Pollock. She worked at the Middleton Schools for 35 years and was an election official for many years also. The Selectmen express their deepest sympathy to her extended family.
Approval of Minutes - Mr. Houten made a motion and was seconded by Mr. Prentakis to read and initial the minutes to indicate their acceptance. The motion carried 5-0-0.
Approval of Warrants - The Board approved Payroll Warrant 35 in the amount of $367,376 which included $257,902 in school payroll and a Payables Warrant of $185,211, two thirds of which represents payroll deductions.
Town Administrator’s Report
Mr. Singer reminded the Board that they were invited to a coffee at the Senior Center on March 7th at 6:00 PM to recognize donations to the Center of a wide screen TV by Danvers Bank and a WII system from the Friends Group, as well as the dedication of the kitchen to Patty Flynn who managed it so well for so many years.
There was a reception this morning for new Library Director, Melissa Gaspar.
The Capitol Budget Meeting will be next Saturday, March 5th starting at 9:00 AM. The major budgets that will be discussed are Police, Fire, School and DPW.
Mr. Singer updated the Board on the Howe-Manning Construction Project. The Town has submitted $13 million in reimbursable expenses to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). The Town’s share of the amount is $6,212,299. MSBA has promptly reimbursed its share which is now about $7 million. As promised the reimbursements are coming very quickly. There will be an update on the debt service as part of the Capital Budget Meeting.
The construction is moving right along and the building is really taking shape.
Work is currently ongoing on documentation for the MassCHPS (Massachusetts Collaborative for High Performing Schools) certification. Meeting this Green School standard will entitle the Town to an additional 2% reimbursement form the MSBA. The project must earn 34 points to obtain the maximum 2% additional reimbursement but the Town is aiming at 40 points.
The Selectmen will be asked to take certain actions as part of the certification such as adopting a Joint Use Agreement with the School Department and adoption of an anti-idling zone on school property. Among the other actions that gain points for the Town are:
_ Providing Bike access
_ Restrictions on indoor water use
_ Prohibition on the use of CFCs in refrigeration
_ Exceeding energy efficiency standards by 20%
_ Certifying that recycling is actively promoted
_ Adopting pro-active maintenance practices which will require extra training for staff.
_ Instituting mold prevention and indoor air quality protection practices.
Some of these requirements are common sense and some are leading edge. The building size is doubling and air conditioning is being added. However, in spite of this, energy costs are going up by only a small proportion. The Town has built a very “green” school without doing anything that does not have a good payback.
Mr. Singer also noted that the up-to-date building practices utilized for the expanded Flint Library have resulted in energy costs that are well below the Architects prediction.
Request by Police Chief DiGianvittorio for approval to submit an Electronic Weapons Policy and Procedure to the State – The Chief proposes to submit a policy for the use of electronic weapons to the state and would like the permission of the Board to proceed. Since 2004, Massachusetts has allowed local police forces to purchase and use electronic weapons. The Chief’s draft proposal is before the Board. The Chief has spoken with other area Police Departments that use these weapons. As of 2009, 61 departments have adopted policies for carrying and using these weapons and a number of departments have adopted them since that date. He has utilized their policies as examples and is confident that the policy before the Board will win state approval. This process could take
Mr. Prentakis asked for more explanation of what an electronic weapon is. The Chief explained that this is the weapon commonly known by the brand name Taser. These weapons operate in two modes. The first is a dry stun mode where an individual can be shocked in close quarters. In the second mode, the weapon can also shoot out a double prong which will shock and subdue the individual from a distance. This weapon would only be used if an officer is being assaulted. The Chief has been to the hospital four times in the last six months because officers have been injured. This weapon would have prevented these injuries. The electronic weapon gives the officer distance.
Mr. Prentakis asked about the experience in Peabody. The Chief said that Peabody has had the weapons for years but only reports actually using it once. The threat of use seems to be sufficient. Methuen has reported a reduction in officer injuries.
The chief intends to offer training to any officers who what it. He will also provide every officer with a holster but will only purchase five weapons. They are expensive, about $1,000. Trained officers will be able to sign them out for their shift. Ms. Jones asked if they would be purchased from a grant or absorbed in the budget. The Chief said they would come out of the budget.
Mr. Houten made a motion to authorize the Chief to proceed in submitting a policy on the use of Electronic weapons to the state for approval. Ms. Jones secndedthe motion and all were in favor.
Discussion of Inclusion of Meals Tax Option on Annual Town Meeting Warrant – Mr. Singer reported that when the legislation passed allowing municipalities to raise an additional ¾ % on the meals tax for local use, the Department of Revenue (DOR) projected that Middleton would gain between $110,000 and $115,000 in additional revenue. The DOR now has actual numbers based on restaurant receipts and can state that Middleton would have raised $163,758 in a year if it had adopted the local meals tax option.
Chairman Lindberg asked what the Town would plan on doing with the additional revenue. Mr. Singer said that he would suggest using it to offset the Operating Budget. However, he feels that the Board should decide whether it even want to put this on the warrant before discussing how it might be used.
Mr. Prentakis feels that the revenue will be raised whether through property taxes or meals tax. At least with a meals tax, people have a choice whether to pay it or not to pay it. Mr. Cresta expressed his opinion that he opposed any new taxes. Middleton voters gave some of the highest percentages in the state in favor of Questions 1 and 3 on the November ballot, and he feels the Board should listen to the voters. He also feels that we should be encouraging people to come to Middleton restaurants.
Mr. Cresta asked about the Town’s reserves. Mr. Singer said that the Town’s reserves are healthy and meet the Town’s Debt Management Policy. Free Cash is $2.5 million, Stabilization is $1.8 million and the Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) account has $400,000. He emphasized that he would never recommend using reserves to support the Operating Budget.
Mr. Prentakis said this is a matter of whether you will raise $20 million in property taxes or raise $19,937,242 in property taxes and $163,758 in meals taxes. Most of the surrounding communities have adopted this tax and it has not hurt their restaurants.
Mr. Houten indicated that he was opposed because the Town doesn’t need another tax.
Ms. Jones is opposed because taxes don’t go away once they are imposed.
Chairman Lindberg suggested letting the voters decide. Perhaps it could be structured so that the revenue went to Stabilization where a two thirds vote is necessary for using the money
Mr. Prentakis made a motion to give the voters the opportunity to adopt the local option meals tax and offset their property tax. Mr. Houten seconded the motion. Mr. Prentakis and Chairman Lindberg voted yes. Mr. Cresta, Mr. Houten and Ms. Jones voted no. The motion failed.
Fiscal Year 2012 Operating Budget Updates – Mr. Singer pointed out the two versions of the summary chart. The first version incorporates a 3.5 % increase in the budget, half of which is attributable to school enrollment. The surprise in the budget is the $112,000 increases in the Town’s assessment from the North Shore Vocational School which is because of an increase of four or five students. $230,000 of the increase in the Masconomet assessment is also because of an enrollment shift. The other half of the 3.5% increase relates to pension, health care and energy cost increases. The local school budget is within $22,000 of the FinCom target and they are still making adjustments.
Masconomet will be holding their budget review on Saturday. The draft budget shows a $330,000 to $340,000 structural gap. It will require an override. The alternative would be to use up all of the Town’s excess levy capacity.
This year’s Capital Budget is smaller than usual. However, the Capital Budget does not impact the Operating Budget because they have different funding sources. The replacements planned are essential.
The second version of the summary includes a 5% increase in the budget, with 1.5% on override. In this scenario 85.3% of the increase would be attributable to the schools.
Mr. Cresta asked if anyone knew if Masco was getting any closer to target. Mr. Prentakis had attended a meeting billed as a budget meeting but it really only concerned programs at the school. He also said that Masco personnel costs have gone up $600,000. Mr. Singer said that the agreement between the three Towns and Masco requires that they certify their budget and the Town’s assessments by the third week of March. So the issue will be clearer by the Joint Public Hearing on the budget
Middleton is suffering the most because of the enrollment shift. Boxford will see a $200,000 decrease due to lower enrollment. So even if the overall budget goes up significantly, the will not see as large an overall increase.
Mr. Cresta asked about the options at Town Meeting. Mr. Singer said that the Town must present the certified Masco budget. The problem occurs if Boxford and Topsfield don’t need an override. Middleton will have to have a contingency plan for cuts if the override does not pass. The other Town’s may have the capacity to put the excess amount on the warrant without putting it on the ballot.
The Masco budget could go up $850,000 but the assessment to the Towns will go up $1.1 million because of reductions in local aid. Masco did not make cuts last year when local aid was cut in mid-year. Ms. Jones pointed out that the share of the budget attributable to the schools has over the years shifted from 50% to closer to 70%.
Chairman Lindberg left the meeting, turning it over to Mr. Cresta.
Mr. Cresta announced that the Board would be going into Executive Session under Chapter 39, Section 23B, Sections 3, 6 and 7 and that the Board would not reconvene in open session. Mr. Prentakis voted yes. Ms. Jones voted yes. Mr. Cresta voted yes. Mr. Houten voted yes. Executive Session was entered at 9:03.
Brian Cresta, Clerk