Budget Hearing Minutes – 2/16/17

TOWN OF WALPOLE

 PUBLIC HEARING

2017 ANNUAL BUDGET AND WARRANT ARTICLES

FEBRUARY 16, 2017

 

Selectboard Present:     Peggy Pschirrer (Acting Chair); Whitney Aldrich; (Absent: Steven Dalessio)

 

CALL TO ORDER:  Mrs. Pschirrer, Acting Chair, called this 2017 Annual Budget and Warrant Articles Public Hearing to order at 6:00 PM in the Walpole Town Hall.  She welcomed everyone.  Mr. Dalessio is not present as his wife is just coming out of surgery for her shoulder following a fall on ice.

 

Proposed Budget:  Mrs. Pschirrer advised it is important for everyone to understand this budget as it is a different type than usual.  The Selectboard started to work on this budget in October meeting with every Department Manager after they had submitted a budget.  They had two full-day meetings. The bottom line was higher than expected.  It is not just the Town budget that impacts the Town’s property taxes but it is also the County taxes (who had their Public Hearing quite a while ago), Fire District and Fall Mountain Regional School District.  The Fire District had their Public Meeting on February 8th.  On that same night the FMRSD budget was being presented; they represent a big portion of the Town’s tax bill.  There were not many Walpole people there.  The Selectboard have been pretty consistent in giving a 2% increase to employees each year.  A Salary Study was done this past fall because the Selectboard felt we were behind some other communities.  It represents an increase for some Police Department officers, Librarian and Highway Director.

 

Mrs. Pschirrer referenced the “Expenditure Comparison Summary” handout.  The operating fund is $3,729,595 but that figure includes $130,000 an unfunded mandate by the State. This will come from the unassigned fund balance.  It has been ten years since the Town had a full assessment and we are in the process of that revaluation.  Mr. Goins questioned the big increase in Police Special Detail; the 2017 proposed is $20,290 or an increase of 276.93%.  Police Chief Paquette replied that was mostly due to the State funded grants for the radar and extra patrols.  The State gave us quite a bit of money.  The Town pays the officers; they bill the State and the Town gets reimbursed.  It is pretty much a “wash”.  Mr. Kreissle noted this money goes into a Revolving Fund.  Mrs. Pschirrer explained at the last Town Meeting two Revolving Funds were adopted; the Police Department and Recreation Department.  When they want to use those funds they submit a request to the Selectboard.  The Recreation funds come from selling snacks, etc. in the summer time.

 

Mrs. Pschirrer advised this budget includes increases for the insurances.  Liability and Property coverage went up 4.5%, workers compensation is up 5.4%, health insurance is 6%.  Relative to dental coverage, the Town allows $1,000/year for employees and their families. But they do not budget this amount for everybody because past experience shows not all of it is used therefore this has been taken into account.  This is a plan we share with the Fall Mountain Regional School District.  Auditing services, computer up-grades and maintenance for trucks and equipment are included.  The Town now has two people certified to fix brakes and conduct other maintenance on vehicles. We are fortunate to have much of our vehicle repair work done in-house.  There is an increase in the Cemetery budget because some headstones need repairs.

 

Responding to a question from Mr. Ray Boas on the Police Department, Mrs. Pschirrer responded there is a drug problem which requires a tremendous amount of time.  Each time they deal with a juvenile or drug case it could take up to 60 hours of paperwork and transport time plus the officers work their usual shift.

 

All paperwork has to be ready to go to the court each Monday morning.  In Walpole several people have over-dosed. There were two deaths since September as the result of using drugs.  There are constant new “mixes” on the streets.  This opioid problem is all around us.  They also deal with gangs.  The Town will be hiring another police officer.  We cannot expect the Chief and three officers to continue to keep up with everything.  Two police officers have to go with a juvenile when being transported to Manchester.  The court is in Keene.  We need to recognize we have a problem and need to work to resolve that.

 

2017 Warrant Articles:

Article 1.  “To elect the necessary Town officers for their respective terms.”

 

Article 2.  “Are you in favor of the adoption of a Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit zoning ordinance as proposed by the Walpole Planning Board for the Town of Walpole’s Zoning Ordinance as follows:”  (Note: A copy of this proposal will be posted at the polls. A copy of this proposal can be obtained at the Selectboard Office during regular business hours.)

 

Article 3.  “To see if the Town will vote to authorize the Selectboard to enter into a long term lease/purchase agreement in the amount of two hundred twenty-seven thousand four hundred forty-seven dollars and seventy-two cents ($227,447.72) payable over a term of thirty-eight months in four equal payments, for a new John Deere loader for the highway department and to raise and appropriate the sum of fifty-six thousand, eight hundred sixty-two dollars and sixty-eight cents ($56,862.68) for the first year’s payment for that purpose.”

**2/3 ballot vote required**

 

Mrs. Pschirrer explained it seems as if this Article is out of order. However, the Department of Revenue Administration said they should talk about this before the budget.  We have needed a new loader for the last 3-to-4 years but the Selectboard chose to postpone it.  It gets older and continues to need more repairs.  The Selectboard would like to enter into a lease-purchase agreement with the dealer for 38 months to buy the loader at an interest rate of 3-1/2%.  This article does not have an escape clause.  It is important to understand this as it needs a 2/3 ballot vote.  The State DRA refers this to a bond rather than lease.  Mr. Goins negotiated a good deal getting $38,000 for the old loader.  John Deere offers a discount to municipalities plus a municipal interest rate.  The Town will save money in the long run by doing this.  If the Town voters reject this Article it will probably cost close to $50,000 in repairs for the old loader if they do not get the new one.  We need better equipment.  Nortrax / John Deere has always given the Town good service.  If this article passes it will then become a part of the annual operating budget.

 

Article 4.  “To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of four million two hundred nineteen thousand three hundred five dollars ($4,219,305) which represents the three million seven hundred twenty nine thousand five hundred ninety five dollars ($3,729,595) Town Operating Budget of which one hundred thirty thousand dollars ($130,000) to come from the Unassigned Fund Balance and three million five hundred ninety nine thousand five hundred ninety five dollars ($3,599,595) to be raised from general taxation, one hundred eighty two thousand one hundred thirty dollars ($182,130) for the Water Fund Operating Budget and three hundred seven thousand five hundred eighty dollars ($307,580) for the Sewer Operating Budget for the general government of the Town.  Such sum does not include special or individual articles or bonds as otherwise found in the warrant.”

 

This article does not show that there is money coming into the water and sewer departments.  The budget shows expenses but not revenues.  Mr. Aldrich pointed out that water and sewer are paid for by users only.  Because the Water and Sewer Departments are contracted, the Town has to include them in the budget according to the State.  Mrs. Pschirrer mentioned there will be an increase in the sewer fees this year to start planning ahead for projects.  It includes a part of the bond for the sewer treatment plant in Bellows Falls.  We continue to pay our agreed upon share for the operation of the BF Wastewater Treatment Plant.  We have to start to think about how we are going to move our sewer pipes off the Vilas Bridge and install them on the new Arch Bridge.  We have an aging water infrastructure system.

 

Mr. Boas advised there is a 7.15% increase in the operating budget.  Mrs. Pschirrer noted this is with the $130,000 as that pushed up the total increase.

 

Article 5:  “To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of seventy thousand dollars ($70,000) for the repairs and maintenance of Town buildings.  The said funds to come from Unassigned Fund Balance.”

 

Mrs. Pschirrer explained this is to cover another portion of the roof at the Highway Department as only a portion was done last year; some interior work at the Police Department to bring it up to code; the Library needs to replace the air conditioner that no longer functions (this is absolutely necessary for the protection of books, etc.)  plus some new lighting.

 

Article 6:  “To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of seventy-seven thousand dollars (77,000) to purchase a (used) New Holland Tractor/Side Mower for use by the Walpole Highway Department for roadside mowing.”  (Funds to be raised through general taxation)

 

As we drive around Town in the summer time we all see tall invasive plants at every intersection.  In past years we rented equipment to cut it at a cost of $12,000-to-$14,000 for two weeks in the summer. However, we could not schedule in those two weeks.  We are proposing to buy a used tractor that can be used year-round to control the weeds, etc.  It will be money better spent.

 

Article 7:  “To see if the Town of Walpole will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $31,950 for a vehicle for the Walpole Police Department, and to authorize the issuance of not more than $31,950 through a promissory note with the Savings Bank of Walpole in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Finance Act (RSA 33) and to authorize the municipal officials to issue and negotiate such bonds or notes and to determine the rate of interest thereon.  Further to raise and appropriate the sum of ten thousand nine hundred seventy five ($10,975) for the first year’s payment.”

**2/3 ballot vote required**

 

Mrs. Pschirrer mentioned we put a lot of hours on our cruisers.  We are trying to save money by borrowing money.  Mr. Goins worked with Chief Paquette and Sgt. Sanctuary on this. They took a different position than in the past. There is a fleet of five cars; some with low and some with high mileage.  They came up with a rotational plan.  The first car could be leased through Ford Motors; their interest rate is 6%.  Mr. Goins checked with the Savings Bank of Walpole; they will do a loan for $30,000 with a promissory note with 3 payments at 3.25% interest.  We would have a new car, then another new car the next year and so forth.  It will take 5 years for five cars but this would be a start.  Mrs. Pschirrer mentioned if the 2/3 ballot vote is approved the cars would be a part of the operating budget the following year. Chief Paquette said about $16,000 was spent on repairs this year.  A lot of the equipment can be moved into the newer car.  We will have qualified vehicles.  After about 4-1/2 years they will still have good cars to trade.  Mr. Vose’s question was; this year we will lease a car and another year we will lease another car so next year will be double.  Chief Paquette said they will be doing some trade-ins.  They may hold one car as a detail and transport car.  In the past they asked for $15,000/year but it was underfunded to buy a cruiser.  Mr. Goins said under the Capitol Reserve Fund after three years they would have enough to buy one car but there are other cars that need maintenance.  They need reliable cars.  By doing this we would be able to flatten out the payments; in the 9th year cycle they would be caught up.

 

Article 8:  “To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) to purchase a cage, console, other necessary information and installation in the new police car.  This article is contingent upon the passing of warrant article 7.”

 

This article will outfit the cruiser.  A cruiser must have ancillary items.  It will be moot if Article 7 does not pass.

 

Article 9:  “To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) to be deposited in the Town of Walpole Highway – Capitol Reserve Fund Account previously established for the purpose of highway equipment.  The said funds to be raised through general taxation.”

 

Mrs. Pschirrer advised that Mr. Mike Rau keeps track of the equipment age and usage.  The next time we need a big truck, we will have some of the money.  Their goal for next year is to return to basic highway maintenance.  The Town has 70 miles plus we plow some State roads that are South Street, Prospect Hill, and a large portion of County Road.  These State roads are in rough shape.  We need to remind the State there is a southwestern portion in the State.

 

Article 10:  “To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of seven thousand dollars ($7,000) to be deposited in the Police Vehicle – Capitol Reserve Fund Account previously established for the purchase of a police vehicle.  The said funds to be raised through general taxation.”

 

Replying to a question, Mr. Goins said there is $38,000 in this account now.  Chief Paquette stressed they do need a new car now.  If Article 7 does not pass the Police Department would have to wait until the next Town Meeting to use the funds in Article 10 unless they call a special Town Meeting.  Mr. Aldrich advised they would have to go to the Superior Court and convince the Judge it is an emergency.”

 

Article 11.  “To see if the Town will vote to modify the elderly exemptions from property tax, based on assessed value, for qualified taxpayers, to be as follows:  for a person 65 years of age up to 75 years, $25,000; for a person 75 years to 80 years, $40,000; for a person 80 years of age or older $50,000.  To qualify, the person must have resided in this state for at least 3 consecutive years preceding April 1 in the year in which the exemption is claimed, own real estate individually or jointly, or if the real estate owned by such person’s spouse, they must have been married for at least five years.  In addition the taxpayer must have net income of not more than $25,000, or if married a combined net income of less than $40,000; and own net assets not in excess of $75,000 excluding the value of the person’s residence.”

 

Mrs. Pschirrer pointed out that this year the Town was audited by the State. A number of elderly residents lost their exemption as they no longer qualified because of an income that was a little over the guidelines.  The existing amounts were adopted in 1997.  This is a reasonable increase. Some of these residents who lost their exemption will be able to reapply and qualify.

 

Article 12.  “To see if the Town will vote to adopt the provisions of RSA 72:28-b, All Veterans’ Tax Credit.  If adopted, the credit will be available to any resident, or the spouse of surviving spouse of any resident, who (1) served not less than 90 days on active service in the armed forces of the United States and (2) was honorably discharged or an officer honorably separated from service and is not eligible for or receiving a credit under RSA 72:28 or RSA 72:35.  If adopted, the credit granted will be $500.00, the same amount as the standard or optional veterans’ tax credit voted by the Town under RSA 72:28.”  Mr. Aldrich noted this will not have a big impact on the tax rate.  Many communities all over the State are looking at adopting this warrant article.

 

Article 13:  “To transact any other business that may legally come before the meeting.”

 

There were 13 people in attendance.

 

Adjournment:  There being no other discussion, Mrs. Pschirrer declared this Public Hearing adjourned at 7:05 PM.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Regina Borden, Recording Secretary

 

 

_______________________              __________________                        __________________

Steven Dalessio, Chair                         Peggy L. Pschirrer                    Whitney R. Aldrich

 

 

(Note:  These are unapproved Minutes.  Any corrections will be found in the Minutes of the February 23, 2017, Selectboard meeting.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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