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Selectmens Meeting Minutes 10-30-2012
Selectmen’s Meeting
Nathan Media Center
Fuller Meadow School
October 30, 2012
7:30 PM
Call to Order –Chairman Cresta called the meeting to order at 7:30.  Also present were Mr. Houten, Ms. Jones, Ms. Lindberg, Mr. Prentakis, Town Accountant Andrew Vanni and Town Administrator Mr. Singer.
Minutes – Mr. Houten made a motion to accept the minutes of the October 2nd and October 16th meetings.  Ms. Jones seconded the motions.  Ms. Lindberg abstained for the October 16th minutes.  All others were in favor.
Approval of Warrants –Mr. Vanni presented Payroll Warrant #1317 totaling $363,796 and including:
$21,169 for the Police, and $5,372 for Police Details
$11,446 for the Fire Department including both overtime and part-time,
$23,380 for the Electric Light Department,
$12, 916 for the Public Works Department, and
$269,856 for the School.
        The Payables Warrant totals $$406,057 and includes:
$138, 364 in Payroll deductions,
$155,354 for the Electric Light Department, including $64,809 for purchase of power,
$$45,656 for the school including $33,138 for transportation and
$53,202 for the Treasurer’s Office including $19,666 for the SESD assessment.
Ms. Prentakis made a motion to approve the warrants.  Mr. Houten seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Town Administrator’s Report
        Hurricane Sandy – Mr. Singer reported that there were no injuries in Middleton and little damage.  There were some downed trees.  He credited good preparation by Emergency Director and Fire Chief Frank Twiss.  There were some brief power outages but no flooding.  The most serious damage was to the DoubleTree Hotel where part of the roof blew off.  The damage is estimated at $1 million and repairs will begin tomorrow.  There will be an extra container for storm debris at the Transfer Station.  The streets look good so Mr. Singer suggests that Trick or Treating go on as planned.
        Mr. Singer did declare a state of emergency in case help is needed after the damage is fully assessed.  The total to the Town would probably be the $20,000 to $25,000 for tree removal.  He congratulates the Electric Light department and all Town employees.
        Mr. Ferrara, the new Assistant Town Administrator will begin on Monday, November 5th.  There will be a coffee in the morning.
        The Renewal of Alcohol License Affidavits have been received from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABCC).  They are due back by November 30th so the licenses can be signed.
        Middleton’s new Howe-Manning School has been awarded the MassCHPS designation.  It is one of four schools that will be honored on November 15 at the Convention Center.  The purpose of the standards is to create a comfortable and energy efficient environment.  Obtaining the certification resulted in an extra $600,000 in grant reimbursement in addition to the savings on energy costs that will be realized in the future.
        Maria Scarpa has resigned from the Middleton Elementary School Committee.   When the Committee declares a vacancy, the Selectmen will advertise the position and then the Selectmen and the School Committee will meet in joint session to appoint someone to fill the position until the May Town Election.
        The carpentry students from the North Shore Vocational School are back at the Police Station.  They are gutting part of the interior in preparation for the remodeling.  They are also working on the weather overhang by the front door and on closing off the former front entrance.  There may also be a few jobs for them at Town Hall.
        The site plan for the new Town Common and Town Center improvements will be going before the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Industrial Design Committee.
        At the next meeting, the formal Transfer of Manager hearing for the DoubleTree Hotel will be on the agenda.  The Town has asked that the current manager stay on site until the new manager is approved.
        Ms. Jones noted that Michael Dailey, longtime owner of Dailey’s Restaurant has passed away.  The business is a local stand-by and Mr. Dailey was always generous to the Town.
Review of Essex Regional Retirement System’s (ERRS) Calendar Year 2013 Operating Budget – Mr. Cresta noted that since Mr. Singer has sat on the ERRS Board, it has turned from an embarrassment to a well-run system.  Mr. Singer explained that the budget that the Board is looking at is the Administration Budget which is about $1 million.  ERRS pays out about $20 million in benefits.  ERRS services 5000 active and retired employees from 48 entities, including municipalities, housing authorities, water districts and other agencies in Essex County.
Mr. Singer talked about the turn around.  He says the Director is on the road to a complete reform.  A new hiring process is in place.  Three employees have been hired through this competitive process.  There is also new technology in place and a new website.  Professional training has been provided for all staff members.  A request for Proposals (RFP) went out for banking services.  This has resulted in the investment of million in funds that had been sitting in low interest accounts.  ERRS will also be looking for Information Technology, Actuarial, Auditing, Database Management and Investment Services.
        The ERRS fiscal year is the calendar year by statute.  The budget that the Selectmen are looking at will go into effect in January 2013. For 2013, ERRS is proposing a 2% reduction in operating costs.  However, as a result of the un-funded pension liability due to the downturn in the stock market and the increased number of retirees, the assessments to the participating entities will go up 8%.
        ERRS has its assets invested through the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Trust (PRIT), which manages $50 billion in assets.  ERRS has a $255 million asset base which is 55% funded.  There is a need to reassess the investment assumptions.  7%-8% is no longer realistic.  A lowered assumption increases the time period that the entities will have to pay a higher assessment but it is better to recognize that now than to compress the increased costs into the last years.  At present it is projected that the liability will be fully funded in 2038 but changing the assumptions will push that out.  The private sector uses assumptions between 4 ½% and 6%.
Update of Regional Emergency Communication Center Progress – Mr. Cresta commented that the building looks complete.  Mr. Singer said that Police Chief DiGianvittorio went to the last Financial Advisory Committee meeting in his place.  The Executive Director reported that the Occupancy Permit will be signed next week.  The current budget projections are similar to the initial budget presented last year, about $1.9 million, though there is no actual experience since it is not in operation.  The population base is around 80,000 and the assessment remains at $16.20 per capita.
        The 911 Commission has proposed that the Center become the primary point for calls from cell phones in the area.  There are now as many 911 calls from cell phones as from landlines.  They are handled by the State Police call enters which are not really set up for this so there are delays.  The State will provide an infusion of cash to handle this service.  Eight to ten additional employees would be funded by the State.  They will be funded through an Inter-Agency Service agreement not through grants.  This means the funding is secure.  As of now the per-capita assessment is projected to stay the same for two to three years.  However by 2016, it could go down 15%-20%.  The assessment to Middleton will be around $140,000 so this reduction would be welcome.
Review of Final Fiscal Year 2012 Local Receipts and First Quarterly FY 2013 Financial Reports – Mr. Cresta noted that this would be the second quarterly run through of the Town’s financials.  He appreciates receiving them electronically.  He asked that Mr. Vanni update the Board on the receipts and on Free Cash.  Mr. Singer said that he would first like to recognize the efforts that Mr. Vanni and his staff put in to both serve the public and close the books and certify Free Cash on time, in spite of staffing issues due to the Treasurer being out on medical leave.
        Mr. Cresta asked Mr. Vanni to begin with Free Cash.  Mr. Vanni reported that Free Cash has been certified at $2,511,000.  This is up from $2,309,000 for the previous year.  This is due to the difference between budgeted and actual revenue and expenditures.  Mr. Cresta asked if there were any unexpended budget items that jumped out.  Mr. Vanni said that it was across the board.
        A breakdown of Local Receipts Not Reserved for Direct Appropriation for both FY’12 and proposed FY ’13 is included in the packet.  The Selectmen reviewed the budgeted vs. actuals receipts for FY ‘12.  Mr. Singer noted that the permit fee for the Water Treatment Plant which was a large part of the difference between actual and budgeted revenue was almost entirely responsible for the addition to Free Cash.
        Ms. Lindberg asked about the payment due from the Department of Revenue (DOR) for the excise tax due from the DoubleTree Hotel.  There is an issue with how the State distributes the revenue from the DoubleTree since it is half in Danvers and half in Middleton.  There is currently no way to know if Middleton is getting the correct amount.  This should be around 130,000 and should be transferred to the Town quarterly but the State often waits to do a balloon payment at the end of the fiscal year.  Mr. Prentakis pointed out that the Hotel will soon be run as it were two hotels.  The hotel with the family rooms will be completely in Middleton.  Previous history is not going to be helpful in projecting revenue from this source.
        Mr. Singer said that the tax rate would be set by the Assessors in about a month.  The $200,000 bump this year in permit fees due to the Water treatment Plant will be accounted for.  These revenues will be budgeted at about the same amount as the FY ’12 budget.  Mr. Cresta asked about the effect of current development.  Mr. Singer said that unless the development escalates, he doesn’t expect a big jump.  Ms. Lindberg asked about the year-to-date actuals in the FY ’13 report.  Mr. Singer said they were estimates because the books were not closed on the first quarter, due to the Treasurer’s absence.  Mr. Singer said that $2.3 million in revenues from Local Receipts Not Reserved for Direct Appropriation will be the assumption in setting the tax rate.  The tax rate should not be set too high.  At the same time, the estimates must be achievable because the DOR monitors every item and will want an explanation of any line item that varies more than a certain percent from last year.
        Mr. Prentakis had some questions from the other financial documents that the Board had received electronically.  He was concerned about the budgeted vs. actual for retirement.  Mr. Vanni explained that the budgeted amount is the net expenditure.  The Town pays the insurance and the retirement and then bills  the appropriate share to the School and Electric Light departments.
        Mr. Cresta said that he would like to see the Encumbrance Report and Mr. Vanni said he would supply it.
Other Business – Mr. Cresta noted that next Tuesday is Election Day.  A post card will be going out to all residents explaining the Election Day procedure and the new plan for queuing voters so they will be inside in case of inclement weather.  He also encouraged voters to avoid the early morning rush if they possibly could.
Adjournment – Mr. Cresta said that the Board would not be going into Executive Session.
Mr. Houten made a motion to adjourn the meeting.  Ms. Jones seconded the motion and all were in favor.  The meeting was adjourned at 8:35.
Respectfully submitted,
Mary Jane Morrin                        
Mary Jane Morrin, Recording Secretary
Christine Lindberg, Clerk