RCL Notes for links from the Civic News: Rye Town Budget Work shop RCL Notes 12-12-13
NOTES OF DECEMBER 12, 2013 RYE BUDGET COMMITTEE MEETING
TOWN BUDGET SESSION
Final Revision B – Provided by the Rye Civic League
Present from Budget Committee (counterclockwise around table): Ray Jarvis (Clerk), Randy Crapo (Jenness Beach Precinct Representative), Shawn Crapo, Jim Maheras (Vice Chairman), Paul Goldman (Chairman), Craig Musselman (Selectmen’s Representative).
Present at the table from the Town (continuing counterclockwise from Selectman Musselman): Cyndi Gillespie (Town Finance Director), Mike Magnant (Town Administrator).
Also present (sitting in audience): Kevin Walsh (Police Chief), Skip Sullivan (Fire Chief), Dennis McCarthy (Public Works Director), Jim Raynes (Chairman, Conservation Commission), Sally King (Conservation Commission), Jaci Grote (Conservation Commission) (the attendees from the Conservation Commission left after most of the discussion regarding the Conservation warrant article had been completed).
Present from public: Peter Crawford, Joe Cummins (arrived around 7:40 p.m.)
Editor’s note: For ease in finding particular sections using the archived video and audio on the Town website, the elapsed time is indicated. Use the slider and the elapsed time indicated at the bottom of the video window to fast forward to the desired section. Videos on the Town website may currently be accessed at www.town.rye.nh.us by clicking on “Town Hall Streaming” at the bottom left of the screen. Follow the link for “Town Hall Live Streaming,” then find the meeting by date under “Previous.”
The video starts at 7:07:06 p.m.
- No decision yet on $3 million Conservation bond. Selectmen are working on tightened procedure for land acquisitions which, it appears, would lead to a reversal of Selectman Musselman’s position on the issue, leading to Board of Selectmen endorsement.
- Conservation Commission Chairman Jim Raynes defends their past processes, but states that he will not seek reappointment in 2014.
- After three Conservation Commission members leave the meeting, the Budget Committee laughs about the absence of maps of Conservation properties and Selectman Musselman promises more access and transparency in the future.
- New phone systems for Public Safety Building and Town Hall are unanimously recommended as part of $89,650 capital outlay budget.
- Three Public Works vehicles totaling $390,000 in value are unanimously recommended. One must be leased as there would otherwise be insufficient funds in the Highway Equipment Capital Reserve Fund. Additional $150,000 warrant article for Wallis Rd. culvert is pending.
- Warrant article for hiring an additional full-time police officer at $88,000 annual cost is unanimously recommended to deal with “louts” at the beach and provide a second officer on the graveyard shift.
- Town health insurance increase of 17 percent, compared to 4.7 percent for the School District, is explained. The Town has a preponderance of middle-aged employees with higher costs. Previously, the Town was grouped with other towns of 50-100 employees, but starting in 2014 its rates will be based solely on its own health care costs.
Approval of minutes and announcement (0:00 elapsed)
The minutes of the September 3, 2013 operating expense review were unanimously approved without discussion.
Chairman Goldman stated that there were six members present so that the Committee could proceed. Other members are expected to arrive. Editor’s note: None did, so the Budget Committee barely had a quorum, with slightly more than half of the 11 members present, throughout the meeting. Mr. Goldman stated that he had received an e-mail from Ms. Balboni, and she would not be attending as her brother was undergoing emergency bypass surgery.
The minutes of the all-day session on November 14, 2013 were unanimously approved without discussion, with Randy Crapo abstaining as he had only been there for half of the session.
Mr. Goldman announced that this is a work session. To be discussed are (1) unfinished business with respect to Town budgets, (2) capital expenditures for Recreation, Public Works and Town Hall, (3) Capital Reserves, (4) Warrant Articles and (5) Expendable Trusts.
CIP Plan discussion regarding Harbor Rd. Bridge (4:16 elapsed)
Ray Jarvis discussed a change to the CIP Plan involving the Harbor Road Bridge. It was moved in from 2018 to 2015, with the cost reduced from $320,500 to $100,000 as an attempt will be made to repair the bridge rather than replace it. This causes changes in Tables 8 and 9. He has copies of new pages, which will be added to the CIP Plan as an addendum. Selectman Musselman stated that the change was due to engineering input from him and thanked Mr. Jarvis for making the change so late in the process
Summary of open issues and the schedule for future meetings (10:19 elapsed)
Cyndi Gillespie summarized the open issues. She stated that she is not aware of any Town budget items that the Budget Committee has not already addressed. The Board of Selectmen has not yet made a decision on the Conservation Commission budget, although the Budget Committee has recommended it.
Mr. Goldman asserted that, other than a $3000 change, the Budget Committee has voted on everything that was brought forward. However, a change had been in the works with respect to the Town Clerk’s budget, although that had been voted on. Ms. Gillespie stated that it was as previously accepted, so there is no change. Editor’s note: At the December 9, 2013 Board of Selectmen meeting it was agreed that the Assistant Town Clerk’s position would not be made full-time this year as had been proposed, however the Assistant Clerk’s hours would be increased from 24 to 32 hours per week. The individual in the position was working one day per week at the Recycling Center, and those hours would be eliminated.
Ms. Gillespie stated that the capital outlay budget and the warrant articles needed to be addressed. She stated that there would be additional warrant articles, so the Budget Committee would need to meet again to address these warrant articles. Mr. Goldman suggested that one of the future meetings start a little early. Ms. Gillespie stated that the Board of Selectmen would be meeting on the 23rd and the 13th, and the public hearing is on the 16th. Editor’s note: It appears that the first date refers to December 2013, and the latter two to January 2014. Mr. Magnant interjected that collective bargaining agreement discussions are in process with respect to all three unions. If agreement is reached those will need to be presented as well.
Ms. Gillespie stated that the union cost items would be warrant articles, however if there is a COLA, there may be increases for non-union employees and that would change the operating budget. The budget currently includes no COLAs. They do not know what they will be. Editor’s note: Apparently the non-union employees receive whatever cost of living adjustment (“COLA”) is agreed to with the unions. Selectman Musselman stated that, if COLAs apply across the board, they would need to go line item by line item through the budget. Ms. Gillespie suggested a separate meeting, as squeezing this into an hour would not work. The public hearing is on the 16th for the Town budget and the 9th is a Town Hall Committee meeting. Selectman Musselman stated that the 6th had been committed to the Beach Use Committee. The Committee selected Tuesday the 7th January at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall for unfinished Town budget business.
Mr. Goldman and Ms. Gillespie agreed that no departmental budgets would be revisited that evening, as these would need to go through the Selectmen first.
Capital outlay, $89,650 (20:22 elapsed)
Ms. Gillespie indicated that the Police and Fire Chiefs were seeking a replacement of the eight-year-old phone system for the Public Safety Building, as the existing system is no longer being supported. There is a quote for $16,700. With regard to the Town Hall, the system there is 20 years old. There is an advantage to having everything on the same type of system as the systems can be directly connected, permitting charges for local phone calls to be avoided. The new phone system for the Town Hall is $11,700. The total for the Public Safety Building is $25,700 as there is an additional $9000 requested for comprehensive energy modeling. Editor’s note: The Rye Energy Committee has identified the Public Safety Building as consuming significantly more energy per square foot than other Town buildings.
With regard to computers, there are plans to replace six: three fire, two police, and one for the Recreation Director.
For Public Works there is $28,000 requested, of which $5000 is for repainting at the Recycling Center, $15,000 for the Washington Road fence, and $8000 for surveying and setting corners.
Jim Maheras asked why only 1/3 of the $150,000 budget for the current year had been spent. Ms. Gillespie noted that 40 percent less than the prior year had been budgeted for this year. Also $10,000 for the new cruiser and the site plan for Public Works are not included in the expenditures to date. The latter is under contract, but not all of it has been paid, she said. Editor’s note: Normally, funds must be expended in the year in which they are appropriated. One of the exceptions is that appropriations may be “encumbered,” allowing them to be spent in a future year, but only if there is a contract in place prior to the end of the year. Ms. Gillespie stated that the entire $150,000 would probably be expended.
Mr. Goldman confirmed that, despite the appearance of an item on the agenda, there was nothing for Recreation that would need to be considered.
Shawn Crapo moved to recommend the $89,650 capital outlay budget for the Town. Randy Crapo seconded the motion. All present were in favor, with six persons voting.
Warrant article overview (43:36 elapsed)
The process was discussed. Mr. Goldman stated that, if the Board of Selectmen had voted, the Budget Committee would as well, but they would get familiar with all of them. Any remaining issues would be addressed at the January 7 meeting.
Conservation Land Acquisition Fund discussion, $3 million (46:20 elapsed)
Mr. Goldman read the proposed warrant article:
“Are you in favor of adoption of Article ___ as follows?
“To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $3 million to be placed in the Conservation Land Acquisition Fund for the acquisition of conservation easements or open space lands by the Town, all for the permanent protection of appropriate undeveloped land in the Town of Rye, and to authorize the Conservation Commission and Selectmen to act on behalf of the Town in connection with such acquisition of conservation easements or open space lands (subject to the hearing and procedural requirements of New Hampshire RSA Chapter 36-A) and to further authorize the issuance of not more than three million dollars of bonds and/or notes in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Finance Act (New Hampshire RSA Chapter 33 as amended) and to authorize the Selectmen to issue and negotiate such bonds and/or notes and to determine the rates of interest thereon (3 out of 5 ballot vote required).”
Mr. Goldman, Mr. Jarvis and Selectman Musselman noticed some typographical errors, which are corrected above.
Jim Maheras asked whether there would be a time limit. Selectman Musselman stated that, last time, the bonds were issued as needed. In response to an inquiry from Randy Crapo, Selectman Musselman confirmed that this would not prevent all of the money from being spent in one year.
Mr. Jarvis indicated that he might need to recuse himself, as he is Chairman of Open Space Committee of the Conservation Commission, which has been formed for this purpose. Mr. Goldman stated that they would not be voting that night. Jaci Grote asked why there would be no vote. Mr. Goldman responded that the Budget Committee would like to hear the Selectmen’s opinion and the reasons for it. He is seeing this for the first time.
Conservation Commission Chairman Jim Raynes asked Mr. Jarvis to speak first.
Mr. Jarvis stated that the Master Plan strongly endorses conservation and land protection. He referred to Chapter 6 of that plan. Chapter 3, page 12, states that the Town should aggressively acquire easements and property to expand existing protected areas. He then referred to page 88 of the CIP Plan, Appendix B, which refers to support for the preservation of wetlands, animal migration corridors and salt marshes. He said that when he read Chapter 6, he got charged up. This is about preserving the quality of life in Town, which depends on preserving water supplies and keeping contaminants away, as well as keeping animal corridors open and not defiling the land.
Mr. Jarvis said that, to put the $3 million bond into context, if financed over 10 years like the other ones, with interest it would be $325,000 annually. That is $.20 on the tax rate. That is finished after 10 years. But, the result will last as long as the Town. That could be 1000 years. Buildings may last 100 years. The $.20 on the tax rate is only 1.6 percent of taxes.
Mr. Jarvis continued, stating that, in his personal opinion, Conservation in Rye needs to expand its visibility. The citizens need to know where they can walk, where they can bring their dogs and what the rationale is for buying or getting an easement on a particular property. He stated that he believes that the Conservation Commission would be more than amendable to improving that communications.
Randy Crapo asked when the last bond of the prior issue would be paid. Mr. Jarvis responded that it would be in 2020, with other bonds being paid off in 2015, 2018, 2019 and 2020. By 2020, all of the present bonds will have been paid off for all departments that have outstanding bond issues. Editor’s note: 2003 Warrant Article 6 appropriated $5 million for conservation land acquisition and authorized funding of the $5 million through the issuance of bonds. It passed 1232-461. The bonds were issued as the funds were needed, thus the maturity dates differ.
Shawn Crapo asked about the leveraging of the funds. Mr. Raynes responded that they try to do everything by the book, according to the RSA’s. When something comes up, the Conservation Commission first votes on it. They then present it to the Selectmen and talk about it. After that, there is a public hearing. That is the required RSA transparency.
During this last year, four large parcels of land have come up as possible acquisitions, one going into North Hampton, two going into Portsmouth, and one that is entirely in Rye, Mr. Raynes said.
With regard to leveraging, he knew that they would get the Goss Farm as they had money to leverage it. Almost a complete match was obtained on that, and it was acquired for less than it had been appraised for. Last year, in December, the last of the $5 million was spent. This is all spelled out in the Town Report. The Independence Farm has not been leveraged. That was given to the Conservation Commission. Jane Holway was the first person who came forward for an easement. Mr. Raynes explained that the $300,000 that the easement was appraised at was used as a match. That was also done with the Brown, White and Philbrick properties. In one case, an easement was donated to them, and they used that for leverage.
The Conservation Committee is now negotiating on one property, and the price is less than half of the appraisal. Within the next two years one or two others will fall.
One of the reasons that the Selectmen have not endorsed the warrant article yet is that Selectman Musselman thought it would be better to go for $1.5 million and then make an additional request the next year. Four parcels will fall in the next few years. That is why they are asking for $3 million.
The Conservation Commission is working on the trails. The Town Forest is the only one with which people are familiar. However, the Conservation Committee is opening up Marden Woods and Seavey Acres, as well as other land.
Mr. Raynes continued, stating that it came out at the public meeting at the Planning Board that the Conservation Commission was attempting to acquire 75 acres in Town. There has been an appraisal on that. Sixteen houses can be built on that 75 acres. That means more roads and more classrooms. Editor’s note: He is apparently referring to the former Rand Lumber parcel. The property owner has dropped its price twice on that. However, the price has still not been established.
Sally King stated that they were very thoughtful about the amount and the timing. They are not trying to conflict with anything else, and they do not believe that this does. Editor’s note: Although it might not conflict with regard to the year that the vote would be taken, if the Town Hall and a number of other projects in the CIP Plan go forward, the conservation debt would be paid off during the same time frame as the debt for those other projects. Thus the projects would combine to increase the tax rate.
Ms. Gillespie summarized the Library, Public Safety Building and first Conservation bonds that are being paid off in 2014.
Mr. Goldman asked whether the leveraging ratio and the probable available properties had been taken into account in order to arrive at the $3 million requested. Mr. Raynes responded that it had been. However, he stated that money is drying up.
Mr. Goldman asked whether there would be a need to seek additional funds within 5 years if they were successful at receiving the $3 million. Sally King stated that they do not want to proceed in a piecemeal fashion.
Mr. Raynes stated that, in 2002, the Rockingham County Planning Board had been paid to do a buildout study. There were certain parcels targeted. There is not a need for another such study as there is not that much land, in terms of large parcels, still available.
Mr. Raynes stated that would not be asking to be reappointed after next year. Editor’s note: According to the 2012 Town Report, Mr. Raynes’ term is up in 2014. Terms typically expire right after the March elections.
Mr. Raynes continued, saying:
“I don’t believe that anything is going to come up the size that the possible four are now, out there. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Yes, we’re going to have somebody call, or Joe pointed out the other night that he’d contacted us on four different ones, and we were able to work nicely with each one of those four and they were happy, and we, the Town, was happy. We, we do not, in our process, we and the RSAs that guide us, we can, somebody can say I want such and such for their property. We first look at the assessor’s card. And then, if they want more than what the Town has assessed for, they have to get an appraisal done. We can by RSA, we’re allowed to go ten percent over the current appraisal on the property. That doesn’t, all of the major parcels that we acquired over the last, we have an appraisal done. We or the property owner. If they wanted more than what we offered them, they got an appraisal to make it work, and you know we had the bargaining room. So we, I think, are very careful with the Town’s money. It’s like it’s my own.” Editor’s note: See the notes of the December 9, 2013 meeting at 156:44 elapsed, where Selectman Joe Mills stated that he had provided leads to the Conservation Commission.
Selectmen Musselman described where the Selectmen were in the process of discussing this matter. They are three different people with different opinions. He stated that he had been concerned. He thinks that a phenomenal job had been done in the expenditure of the previous $5 million. The statute provides that the Conservation Commission negotiates and votes to acquire land. Then the Board of Selectmen approves the acquisition, rather than there being a town meeting appropriation which is what is usually required as a check and balance for a capital expenditure.
Selectman Musselman continued, stating that, on Monday night, he went into a rant and upset his friends from the Conservation Commission. Editor’s note: See the notes of the December 9, 2013 Board of Selectmen meeting. But, he stated that he has been concerned that “we” have not been as open and transparent with information that they need to do their job well. He does not believe that “we” have done our job well in terms of the oversight function. Since Monday night, through Mike and Mike dealing with Town Counsel, they are putting together an appropriate process for the Selectmen’s approval so everything can move at the speed that they need to move at once all of the information is available for the Selectmen and the public. It might be a separate hearing from the Conservation Commission and it might be the same one. A site walk would probably be done, which generally has not been done in the past. Mel Low had stated the other night that you can have full information and have a process that works in a timely fashion.
Selectman Musselman stated that he hopes that, by early January, there will be something that can be adopted as a Selectmen’s policy. It will require them to take a number of steps that they have not been taking. Hopefully he will get to the point where he can support this. Priscilla and Joe, Mike has indicated, are in agreement with setting a more thorough process together. Between now and the time that a warrant article needs to be placed the process would be set up and then they would see how the Selectmen vote. Editor’s note: See the notes of the December 9, 2013 Board of Selectmen meeting. At that meeting, Selectman Jenness appeared to be in favor of the Conservation funding, Selectman Musselman appeared to be opposed to it, and Selectman Mills appeared to be undecided. Thus, it appears that Selectman Musselman’s change of position, assuming that a process is agreed to, will lead to the Board of Selectmen voting to place the warrant article.
Mr. Goldman stated that he understood that the warrant article would not be specific as to particular parcels. He asked whether the process was related to the warrant article or to the evaluation process when a parcel comes up. Selectman Musselman stated that it was the latter, and that it would apply to each one. Mr. Goldman stated that he agrees with the rigor. He asked whether the process was separate from the issue of the warrant article.
Selectman Musselman stated that, in his mind it is part of the decision to “authorize” another $3 million.
Shawn Crapo stated that there was a chicken and egg issue. The Conservation Commission had the money, but it has now been spent. If someone comes to them, they have no money and their hands are tied. Currently, if someone comes to the Town to request that their property be acquired, the issue would have to be put on the ballot.
Joe Cummins, 990 Washington Rd. stated that he was glad that there was pressure on the Conservation Commission with respect to this warrant article. They have come a long way from four years earlier when he was publicly ridiculed by the Chairman for having the audacity to ask for a map of the properties of the Town that his tax dollars had helped pay for.
However, Mr. Cummins stated, he does not want the Selectmen to put too much pressure on the Conservation Commission as he likes what they have done. He stated that he believes that they are very able negotiators.
Transparency is not necessarily readily achieved, Mr. Cummins said. One can get an old appraisal from the Selectmen’s office. He does not understand the Independence Farm. He cannot find out the real consideration. There should be documentation of what was paid that is up to the standards of the State.
Mr. Cummins also stated that the outright acquisition of land should be considered rather than just view easements. Some properties cannot be walked on. If the land is owned in fee simple it could be sold to provide relief to the taxpayers. Mr. Raynes interjected emphatically that you cannot. He stated that it is in perpetuity. Mr. Cummins asked whether he was sure. Sally King stated that it depends on whether there is a secondary easement. It would be necessary to look at each piece and she would be happy to go through them.
Shawn Crapo stated that the purpose of acquiring conservation land was so that it would not be developed. Holding the land for 20 years and then selling it to Chinburg so they can put up houses would defeat the whole purpose, he said. Mr. Cummins analogized it to college savings. It would be a horrible thing if the money could not be accessed in an emergency to put food on the table or keep the house, he said.
Mr. Goldman then addressed the timing issue. He stated that, by the 7th, they need to be able to address the complete set of warrant articles. Selectman Musselman stated that he could participate by telephone on the 23rd. He indicated further that the Town Hall warrant article cost would not be coming until the 9th of January meeting of the Town Hall Committee. Mr. Goldman stated that they would have to be as clean as they can be, and then they could have an early start session. There was discussion about an additional meeting beyond the 7th, but it was agreed that they would try the 7th and not schedule an additional meeting yet.
Mr. Goldman asked whether there was any further comment from the Budget Committee regarding the Conservation warrant article.
Shawn Crapo stated that something would need to be put in place.
Mr. Jarvis said that he is enthused by the position of the Board of Selectmen. Selectman Musselman said, “we’re trying.”
Randy Crapo raised the issue of the 10 years and the $.20 increase in the tax rate. He asked whether the interest would start only once the loan has been obtained. Mr. Jarvis clarified that the $.20 would apply if the $3 million was drawn down on the first day.
Mr. Goldman stated that he understood the spirit and intent of the warrant article, and views it positively. The process needs to be worked through. He is in favor of the overall intent.
Shawn Crapo stated that he is of a similar mind, and agrees with the oversight, but does not want that issue to cause a cycle to be lost. Mr. Goldman stated that he agreed, but would always strive for process improvement.
Selectman Musselman stated that they were proposing something simple, and it would be hard to argue with.
Selectman Musselman stated that he did not know how the Selectmen would vote.
Randy Crapo asked whether, if this is voted down by the Selectmen, there would still be time to get 25 signatures and present it as a petitioned warrant article. It was agreed that there would be. Selectman Musselman stated that, unless it was a petitioned warrant article, if the Selectmen do not approve it, it does not go on the ballot.
Jaci Grote stated that they would prefer to go through the Selectmen. Selectman Musselman responded “no question.” She said they just want to be one happy town.
At this point, Mr. Raynes, Ms. King and Ms. Grote left.
Selectman Musselman chuckled and Shawn Crapo interjected a comment regarding a map of the trails. Selectman Musselman quipped, “except there’s no map.” Raucous laughter ensued. Randy Crapo said he’d asked that question a year earlier. Selectman Musselman said he’d been asking for five years. He acknowledged that there is one map, and said that there had been work on a more complete map for the Town Forest. He said that public access is something that they would be asking regularly about. There is very nice Conservation land, that nobody knows about, where one can walk for miles along streams.
Town Hall warrant article (100:02 elapsed)
Chairman Goldman read the proposed “place holder” warrant article:
“To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $x for the purpose of furthering design development, cost estimates and other related costs for the proposed renovation of the town hall 1839 building and building addition, new office space for municipal business. This project is under the direction of the Board of Selectmen with the advice of the volunteer Town Hall Building Committee. This appropriation is in addition to the operating budget.”
Selectman Musselman stated that these words would change a lot by the time they were done. It has not gone through counsel. The motion to table the matter carried unanimously.
Lease/purchase of front end loader, $175,000 (100:38 elapsed)
Chairman Goldman read the proposed warrant article, which provides for the lease/purchase of a $175,000 rubber-tired front end loader for the Public Works Department and to raise and appropriate $45,000 for the first year’s payment. The warrant article states that the lease agreement contains an escape clause. The article is in addition to the operating budget, and has been recommended by the Selectmen, he said.
In response to a question from Randy Crapo, Ms. Gillespie stated that only $45,000 would go into the budget. Randy Crapo asked what would happen in the subsequent years. Public Works Director Dennis McCarthy stated that, if the funds are not appropriated, the Town can walk away from the lease. That is the purpose of the escape clause, he said.
In response to a follow up question from Randy Crapo, it was acknowledged that the purpose of the warrant article is to give authority to spend the $175,000, and that the expenditures in subsequent years would be moved into the operating budget. Mr. McCarthy stated that it would only be voted on once. Shawn Crapo asked why the subsequent two years were at a cost of $55,000, rather than the years being equally divided. Ms. Gillespie responded that it was due to interest.
Jim Maheras asked Ray Jarvis where this project was in the CIP Plan. Mr. Jarvis responded that it was on page 22, number 204, half way down. He stated that it was time for this project.
Mr. McCarthy stated that the equipment is needed. It would not be a replacement. The old piece of equipment would be retained, however the “crawler/dozer” would not be replaced, so there would be the same amount of equipment but at a little lower capital cost over time as the crawler/dozer would be very expensive to replace. The stumps would be ground, as had been done for the last couple of years. The stump grinder comes in every June and December and makes those all go away.
Randy Crapo moved that the front-end loader warrant article be recommended. All were in favor (six votes).
Mr. McCarthy quipped, we’re on a roll, we got one. Several persons on the Committee laughed.
Six wheel dump truck, $150,000 (106:39 elapsed)
Chairman Goldman read the warrant article, which is to provide $150,000 to purchase a new six wheel dump truck, to replace an existing, older, “high mileage” truck, and to be paid for out of the Highway Equipment Capital Reserve Fund created in 1994 for this purpose. The appropriation is in addition to the operating budget. This has been recommended by the Selectmen.
Mr. McCarthy acknowledged that this was number 106.
Ms. Gillespie stated that there was $278,200 in the reserve fund. The plan is to take out $215,000, bringing it down to about $63,000. Later on, there is a proposal to add another $100,000 so that there would be $163,000 in the reserve fund.
Mr. Jarvis stated that there are 13 vehicles worth $1.3 million, so they put $100,000 in each year.
Shawn Crapo moved to “approve” the warrant article. Randy Crapo seconded the motion. Shawn Crapo then clarified that his motion was to “recommend.” All were in favor (6 votes). Fire Chief Sullivan quipped that he and Police Chief Kevin Walsh were opposed. Editor’s note: Although both were present, they do not have votes. Randy Crapo joked that the equipment would be “nice and shiny,” and suitable for parades.
One ton dump truck, $65,000 (109:41 elapsed)
Chairman Goldman read the warrant article, which is to provide $65,000 to purchase a one ton dump truck, to replace an existing, older, “high mileage” truck, this time a ¾ ton dump truck, and to be paid for out of the Highway Equipment Capital Reserve Fund created in 1994 for this purpose. The appropriation is in addition to the operating budget. This has been recommended by the Selectmen.
Shawn Crapo asked why a one-ton was being purchased rather than a “550.” Mr. McCarthy stated that that was what this was. This would be what they would refer to as a “one ton.” This would become one of the two crew trucks. Mr. McCarthy stated that last year the Budget Committee had recommended a dump truck, however the Board of Selectmen had declined to also recommend it. This is why it looks like they are buying two trucks this year.
Mr. McCarthy stated that he would strike the term “dump” as it is not really a dump truck. There was also discussion about uses for the truck, including removal of seaweed.
Randy Crapo moved to recommend the warrant article. The motion carried unanimously, six votes in favor.
Wallis Rd. Culvert, $150,000 (114:29 elapsed)
Jim Maheras then asked whether a warrant article would be needed for the Wallis Culvert. Mr. McCarthy acknowledged that there should be one, and indicated that it might be addressed later on. Ms. Gillespie stated that one had not been included as she had not received the backup information. Mr. McCarthy stated that it would be $150,000. Mr. McCarthy stated that the backup information would be provided.
Addition of full-time police officer, $88,326.30 in second year (155:01 elapsed)
Chairman Goldman read the proposed warrant article:
“To see if the Town will vote to add one full-time patrol officer in the Rye Police Department, and to raise and appropriate the sum of $46,915 to fund the position for the last six months of calendar year 2014. This appropriation is in addition to the operating budget.”
Mr. Goldman paused and asked whether hiring and staffing positions are warrant articles. Editor’s note: See below, the last two sentences were read later. Ms. Gillespie stated that they were because this is creating a new position. The situation would be different if someone left and is being replaced, she said. Fire Chief Skip Sullivan stated that the last firefighter/paramedic six years ago was a warrant article.
Randy Crapo asked why the Board of Selectmen wanted this to be a warrant article. He asked whether the Selectmen were asking the public to vote on their own safety.
Selectman Musselman explained that the Selectmen had considered a number of alternatives. One of the drivers this year has been a hue and cry to increase the coverage at the beach during the summer, particularly on hot, sunny days. They have been very short handed. Police Chief Kevin Walsh, who is on salary, has been working many, many hours all summer. From the input, it is clear that this needs to be ramped up to address the “louts” who are misbehaving at the beach, in terms of open containers, surfing problems, not obeying lifeguards, urinating in people’s yards, trash, etc.
One alternative was to hire a seasoned, probably retired, officer who might want to spend the summer at the beach. However, there is a compelling argument that (a) it might not be possible to find someone who is trained and experienced to commit for the summer, and (b) if one could be hired, the question would remain as to whether the retired officer would be committed to being there Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then showing up in court on Monday as a Town police officer would need to be. Selectman Musselman stated that his first thought had been a part-time officer.
Shawn Crapo interjected that, the past three years, there have been articles about Hampton trying to fill their force, which had been a magnet in prior years.
Selectman Musselman continued, stating that Chief Walsh had made two points. First, comparing Rye to other towns of similar size with a seasonal influx, like North Hampton and Moultonborough, indicates that Rye is understaffed. Second, there is one person alone on the graveyard shift. Situations in Rye and Greenland demonstrate that the officers are at risk.
Selectman Musselman stated that he had not thought that he would get there, but he did. It was a 2-1 vote, with Selectman Mills against it, he said.
Shawn Crapo asked whether that was before or after he had (inaudible) Seabrook. Selectman Musselman responded that he thought that Selectman Mills had been complimenting Seabrook. He continued, stating that, every time that Selectman Mills bad mouths a community, it is one of Selectman Musselman’s firm’s clients. Editor’s note: It is unclear what Mr. Crapo was referring to, however at the December 9, 2013 Board of Selectmen meeting, during which Officer Blais was promoted to Sergeant, Selectman Mills referred to Officer Blais as a “Brooker,” apparent slang for individuals coming from Seabrook. See the notes of that meeting.
Chairman Goldman stated that he had neglected to read two notes associated with the warrant article. He then read them:
“The amount of $46,915 to fund the position for six months in 2014 includes wages and benefits based on present figures, plus the required outfitting equipment. The cost to fund this position for a full year based on present figures for wages and benefits plus uniform allowance would be $88,326.30.”
Randy Crapo stated that he was pleased to see the warrant article, and, being a representative of Jenness Beach, he is sure that the people of his Village District would be in favor. Editor’s note: The Save Jenness Beach group, apparently consisting of many residents of that area, has been very vocal lately regarding a number of beach-related issues, including the lack of enforcement. See in particular the notes of the June 24, 2013 Board of Selectmen meeting, as well as the notes of the various Beach Use Ordinance Committee meeting. Tom Farrelly, a member of that Committee, is the apparent head of the Save Jenness Beach group.
A discussion ensued about benefits in response to a question from Jim Maheras. Selectman Musselman stated that the benefits nearly matched the salary.
Randy Crapo asked if an additional cruiser would be required. Shawn Crapo asked whether the number of cruisers would be increased to six. Chief Walsh responded that they would remain at five.
Jim Maheras asked whether there was an RSA that required that this be a warrant article. Selectman Musselman stated that, if there is an expansion of a full-time position that is going to go into the future, they feel that the taxpayers need to be apprised of that and vote on it. He does not know the answer to the question, but it is probably not necessary for it to be a warrant article. Town Administrator Magnant stated that the Board of Selectmen had made a decision that any new full-time position would require a warrant article.
Shawn Crapo asked whether there would be flexibility to add another part-time officer as well. Selectman Musselman stated that that could be done, as long as it was within the budget. Randy Crapo referred to the difficulty of finding the money to hire another officer if there was a “no” vote on this warrant article.
Randy Crapo’s moved to recommend the warrant article. Shawn Crapo seconded the motion. It carried unanimously, six votes in favor.
Purchase of used fire truck, $15,000 match (125:42 elapsed)
Chairman Goldman read this warrant article, which provides for $15,000 for a five percent match towards a grant for replacement of the twenty five year old ladder truck. The appropriation would lapse if the grant is not awarded. The appropriation is in addition to the operating budget and has been recommended by the Selectmen.
Selectman Musselman stated that a new ladder truck costs $750,000, a used one could cost $450,000. He has been arguing for some time that Portsmouth has ladder trucks not far away and Rye does not use them very often. However, the Fire Chief does not like him saying that, he said.
Chief Sullivan stated that there is some good stuff out there, perhaps from a volunteer fire department that is going out of business. He quipped that he would have gone for a new one, but McCarthy got all of the money. Editor’s note: This is an apparent reference to the multiple warrant articles for Public Works vehicles just approved. Mr. McCarthy responded, “thanks for the support.” Chief Sullivan stated that he thought they had a good chance of obtaining the grant, which would be awarded in 2014.
Randy Crapo asked how long the Sagamore Bridge would be out of commission. Editor’s note: Sagamore Rd. north of Foyes Corner turns into Sagamore Ave. and passes over Sagamore Creek via the Sagamore Bridge, before ending up in downtown Portsmouth. Chief Sullivan stated that it would be a year or a year and a half. Mr. Crapo stated that that created a problem getting into Rye from Portsmouth. Chief Sullivan stated that the Portsmouth Fire Department has a quint on Lafayette Rd. Editor’s note: A quint fire truck combines pumping and ladder functions. Selectman Musselman stated that Rye’s existing ladder truck is still functional. Chief Sullivan stated that it is getting tired with rust and leaking hydraulics. He asserted that it would be wasting money to repair it.
Shawn Crapo moved to recommend the warrant article. The motion was seconded by Randy Crapo. It carried unanimously, six votes in favor.
Funding of Highway Equipment Capital Reserve, $100,000 (129:06 elapsed)
Chairman Goldman read the warrant article that provides for the addition of $100,000 to the Highway Equipment Capital Reserve Fund created in 1994. The appropriation is in addition to the operating budget and has been recommended by the Selectmen.
Mr. Jarvis stated that this article comes up each year. Ms. Gillespie explained that this would put the fund back up to $163,000 after the proposed expenditures.
Peter Crawford asked, from the audience, whether it might make sense to increase the capital reserve as one of the vehicles discussed was being leased. He asked whether the reason that it needed to be leased was that there was not enough money in the capital reserve. Ms. Gillespie acknowledged that that was the reason, however she stated that the capital reserve is not funded until the end of the year so it could not be spent before then.
Selectman Musselman asked whether the leases could be paid off at any time. Mr. McCarthy acknowledged that they could be and that it could be paid off the next year.
Shawn Crapo moved that this warrant article be recommended. Randy Crapo motioned to Ray Jarvis, who was sitting next to him. Ray Jarvis then seconded the motion. It carried unanimously, six votes in favor.
Funding of Town Employees Accumulated Leave Expendable Trust Fund, $50,000 (131:56 elapsed)
Chairman Goldman read the warrant article, which would add $50,000 to this trust, pursuant to RSA 31:91-a. The trust was created by the 1990 Town Meeting, Article 14. Editor’s note: While Mr. Goldman referred to RSA 31:91-a, it appears that the reference should be to RSA 31:19-a.
Ms. Gillespie stated that this funding had not occurred in 2013, and that the liability was currently $483,000. Three people left this year, resulting in an expenditure of $52,000, leaving $155,000 in the expendable trust fund.
Shawn Crapo asked about sick leave and people cashing in. There was discussion about the vacation buyback program and two Fire Department employees who are under the old grandfathered program. Chief Sullivan stated that the vacation buy back was a good thing as it could be bought back at straight time rather than time and a half.
Jim Maheras asked about State requirements. Ms. Gillespie stated that there was a recommendation that 50 percent of the liability be covered. The Town is not at that level. This would bring it to about $200,000. Randy Crapo stated that there is a note in the financial statements recommending additional funding. He asked whether the underfunding might affect the Town’s bond rating. Ms. Gillespie responded that it had not affected the Town yet, as it is just a recommendation.
There are couple of long-time employees that are close to retirement, Ms. Gillespie said. She said that this would drop the liability. Randy Crapo said that it would “drop in our lap.” Laughter ensued. Editor’s note: while the liability would drop, the Town would need to come up with the cash to pay the accrued vacation of the retiring employees.
Chairman Goldman asked whether there was a motion. Randy Crapo quipped that he was spending too much money and wouldn’t move to recommend this one. He motioned to his right, where Shawn Crapo, followed by Jim Maheras, were sitting. Shawn Crapo in turn motioned to his right. Mr. Maheras then moved to recommend the warrant article. Ray Jarvis and Randy Crapo raised their hands to second the motion. Mr. Jarvis’ second was recognized, followed by laughter. The motion carried unanimously, with six votes in favor.
Library Building Maintenance Expendable Trust Fund, $5000 (136:22 elapsed)
Chairman Goldman read the warrant article that provides $5000 in funding for this trust, which was established in 2005 under RSA 31:19-a. The warrant article is in addition to the operating budget but has not been reviewed or voted on by the Selectmen.
Selectman Musselman stated that this was due to the absence of backup information. Years ago, money was requested to buy rugs 10 years in the future. The request has now been documented in spades, he said.
Randy Crapo asked why it could not just be added to the operating budget. Selectman Musselman stated that this way it does not lapse and the money can be set aside. Mr. Jarvis stated that it is for unanticipated expenses that cannot be budgeted. Selectman Musselman stated that, if it was in the budget, if not spent it would be lost unless there is a contract committing the funds. They want to keep it from year to year in case it’s needed for emergencies, he said.
Randy Crapo stated that it sounded good, but 1200 people needed to read this, understand it and vote on it. Selectman Musselman responded “understand, wait until you get the citizens’ petitions again.” Randy Crapo asserted that the citizens wanted the Budget Committee to take care of the minor things so they did not have to vote on them. Mr. Jarvis disagreed, stating that he is proud to vote on this, and has plenty of time to read it.
Jim Maheras noted that there was currently $16,000 in the trust and they are “unanticipating another five, so they’re going to spend 20,000.” Mr. Jarvis responded that they have items that they know they will spend money on at some future date. Selectman Musselman noted that there was a similar fund for the Town Hall. Mr. Jarvis stated that all departments are encouraged to establish expendable trusts.
Mr. Maheras stated that his point was that they already have $16,000. He is questioning that. Mr. Jarvis noted that the fund will be down to about $9000 because they have needed to spend money recently.
Mr. Goldman stated that they would follow the process and wait until after the Selectmen had voted.
The motion to table carried unanimously.
Next steps (142:21 elapsed)
Ms. Gillespie noted that everything that they had to present had been addressed. More work is needed, following which there would then be more to present.
Mr. Goldman stated that if everything could not be addressed at the next meeting, there would be a work session at the beginning of a public hearing meeting or something similar. Mr. Goldman stated that the next meeting would address warrant articles, Conservation, department operating budget and anything else coming up regarding negotiations and COLAs rippling across departments. Mr. Goldman reiterated that the next meeting would be on January 7 at 6:30 p.m.
Selectman Musselman stated that the Town Hall Committee meeting would be on the 9th. It is expected that there will be a warrant article related to that, Selectman Musselman said.
Discussion regarding School v. Town health health insurance increases (145:12 elapsed)
Peter Crawford, speaking from the audience, stated that he had had a conversation with Ms. Gillespie regarding what had been discussed the prior evening, namely the reason why the Town’s health care was up 17 percent, but the School District’s is only up 4.7 percent. He stated that he thought that the Committee should hear the explanation. Editor’s note: See the notes of the December 11, 2013 Budget Committee meeting.
Ms. Gillespie explained that the Town has over 50 people on its insurance. In prior years the Town had been in a pool for employers with fewer than 100 employees. There are hundreds of other towns with fewer than 100 employees so they were rated with a large group. The LGC has taken away that pool, so Rye is now rated on its own as a large employer. So it’s based on the Town’s experience.
Ms. Gillespie continued, stating that, to be nice, the Town’s employees are tightly in the middle age group. There was laughter. “We don’t have enough young people to offset all the illnesses in us old folks,” she said. Randy Crapo quipped that the lifeguards should be added to the insurance. That is why the Town’s insurance went up 17.6 percent, Ms. Gillespie said. The Schools have a large group on their own, she said.
Ms. Gillespie explained that the LGC is now called the Health Trust, which is where the Town gets its insurance.
The Town is looking into other insurances, she said, but that is all…” She paused, and then Town Administrator Magnant completed her sentence, saying “tied into collective bargaining.” Ms. Gillespie stated that, when you go out to another insurance company they want your experience rate for the last three years and they want to know who is in the group and how old they are.
Shawn Crapo suggested that the Town and School could form a buying group. Mr. Maheras questioned whether the School District would go for that. Randy Crapo stated that they would need a credit as the cost per pupil would go up.
Mr. Jarvis asked whether this was a one-time increase of 17 percent. Three years of that would be 51 percent, he said. Mr. Magnant could not answer the question, but noted that it had not been going up that rapidly in other recent years. Mr. Jarvis asked about the amount of the deductible. Ms. Gillespie stated that it was $2500.
Selectman Musselman changed the subject. He stated that his question the prior night as to whether the School had been gaining ground had been a “stumper.” With respect to the Town, they are gaining. He referred to the Town Hall, Conservation, Public Safety additions including coverage at the beach and keeping up with highway department equipment.
Mr. Jarvis interrupted, changing the subject back and saying that the “white elephant in the room is health care.” We need to act now, he said. Selectman Musselman agreed. Mr. Jarvis stated that it is getting way out of control. Whenever he brings it up, people say we cannot do anything, or that’s the way it is. “Well, baloney,” he said.
Selectman Musselman noted that Rye had moved to high deductible policies. Other towns have not been able to get their unions to agree with that, he said. The Town has saved $60,000 to $70,000 a year. Mr. Jarvis responded that, with one year of a 17 percent increase that savings is wiped out. This is not a competitive market. Until the Town is able to play one off against the other… until we have capitalism, we’re in trouble, he said.
Ms. Gillespie noted that, without that change, it would have gone up another 8.4 percent. Fire Chief Sullivan noted that the problem is universal.
Shawn Crapo noted that the Town is paying for an attorney, and suggested that the Town should have a doctor.
Joe Cummins, speaking from the audience, asked whether Rye had been kicked out of the group. Ms. Gillespie responded that all towns under 100 employees, but over 50 employees, were put out on their own.
Mr. Cummins asked about the deductible plan with employees. Selectman Musselman explained that the Town is no longer paying a lot of insurance money for the first couple of thousand in deductible that employees are going to spend anyway. Editor’s note: Under the program put in place in 2013, the deductible on the Town’s plan with the insurer has been increased to $2500. However, to avoid any additional cost to the employees, the Town reimburses the employees for any medical costs incurred that would have been covered under the prior low deductible policy.
Adjournment (153:33 elapsed)
The motion to adjourn carried unanimously and the meeting adjourned at approximately 9:41 p.m.