WVN #488: More Town Meeting transparency/Selectmen split on ballot question
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The Finance Committee paid attention to residents' vote for more transparency in presenting budgets to Town Meeting. You'll see results at the April annual meeting.
Also in this newsletter: The two newest members of the Board of Selectmen swung a decision against a FinCom proposal to pay for a new public works building with borrowing exempt from Proposition 2-1/2 limits. The choice doesn't change the amount of borrowing, but it can affect how much sooner voters will be asked for an operational budget override.
FINCOM MAKES TOWN MEETING FORMAT CHANGES
On Feb. 25, Wayland's Finance Committee adopted most of the suggestions previously made for a more informative budget format for FY14 and voted its recommendations on a few more warrant articles for the April town meeting.
Much of the discussion on the budget format for the warrant revolved around which line items would be numbered. Departments do not have discretion to move money from one numbered line item to another without consulting the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee. Most departments will have line items titled "salaries," "purchase of services" and "supplies" numbered.
The Department of Public Works will have some new subcategories: "Highway," "Parks and Cemeteries" and "Landfill." Under each of these (unnumbered) categories will be numbered line items "purchase of services" and "supplies". DPW Salaries will not be divided into subcategories as employees are cross-trained to be able to move from one department function (say highways) to another (say parks). "Snow" had already been moved to a separate category with an additional numbered line item "snow overtime".
Health and Life Insurance will have one numbered line item, but several unnumbered subcategories. This will enable employees to change, for example, from electing health insurance from the town, or declining it. However, a snapshot of how many employees are enrolled under each subcategory will be in the warrant, along with the total the town spends on that subcategory. Since some employees have family health insurance and some have individual health insurance and there are other options, only the average amount the town pays per employee can be calculated.
On the other hand, the General Insurance line item will have numbered subcategories, for example, "unemployment compensation" and " police/fire disability". It is unlikely that money would be transferred from one of these categories to another.
The basic reason for these changes is to provide more information for voters, consistent with the passage of petitioners' Article 4 at last October's Special Town Meeting. Even more detail will probably be provided next year.
Warrant Article Discussion
FinCom writes descriptions of each warrant article and votes to recommend approval or disapproval to Town Meeting. Part of this process includes collecting information on details of these articles. Each article is assigned to one FinCom member for research and a preliminary write-up.
Wayland residents Jeff Horan and Gilbert Wolin presented arguments for their petitioners' warrant article asking the town to acquire 150 Main Street (formerly Finnerty's Restaurant) for some possible community use such as a community center or open space. The current owners of this land are proposing a commercial development including a CVS. Some area neighbors would prefer some other alternative. FinCom noted that the amount of money needed to purchase the property was unknown, that the owners had already gone before the Planning Board for permits and that the plans of the petitioners were somewhat vague. The FinCom's vote was unanimous against.
Conservation Administrator Brian Monahan answered questions about the proposal to use community preservation funds to acquire open space at 74 Plain Road. Monahan said that part of the 8.7 acres was already being used by the Conservation Commission to access Lower Mill Brook Conservation Area to maintain open fields. Monahan said the land in question had high conservation value and was worth preserving. This land also includes an unoccupied house assessed at less than $100,000. No FinCom vote will be taken until the after the Feb. 28 Community Preservation Committee meeting.
Bruce Cummings, chair of the Board of Assessors but speaking as a private citizen, asserted that the Recreation Department does not charge enough for non-residents to use athletic fields. He questioned the need for more fields, for example, the ones now under study for the Loker Conservation and Recreation area off Route 30. His theory is if Recreation charged higher fees, there would be less demand for field use by outside users. Recreation commissioners have begun to address Cummings' concerns about field use equity at recent meetings.
During the last three years, the Recreation Commission developed its Master Plan for the use of town fields to meet evaluated recreation goals and needs, which were vetted through a public process. Consultants' work products have been posted on the town website. http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_Recreation/FieldPlan/
Preliminary design for three ballfields at Loker:
The FinCom postponed a vote on the warrant article to appropriate CPA funds for completing the design of the proposed Loker athletic fields.
FinCom member Dave Gutschenritter gave a long and detailed explanation of OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits) funding. After the passage of petitioners' Article 5 at last fall's special Town Meeting, OPEB appropriations are now presented to voters in a separate warrant article.
The purpose of OPEB funding is to change the way retirees' non-pension benefits (such as health insurance) are paid for. Instead of pay-as-you-go, where we pay now for benefits of past employees, the idea is to pay now for the future benefits of current employees. Pay-as-you-go is considered to be a poor accounting practice as it does not pair the cost of benefits with current services, and does not provide information about future cash flows nor to what extent benefits associated with past services have been funded.
Gutschenritter also said he believes that the amount ($1,279,747) actuaries say should be paid into a Wayland OPEB trust this year was trustworthy. The vote was 6-0-1 in favor.
Citing concerns for maintaining impartiality, the FinCom voted unanimously against the town administrator's proposed warrant article for selectmen to take on the responsibility of writing up comments and recommendations in the warrant for non-financial, non-land use articles at future town meetings.
The FinCom will continue its Town Meeting preparation work through the next week, with the Warrant scheduled to be sent to the printer on March 8.
New Finance Director
Brian Keveny, Wayland's new finance director, attended his first FinCom meeting and introduced himself as a native of Arlington with 18 years of accounting experience. His last position was with the town of Winchester.
Since Michael DiPietro resigned last October, John Senchyshyn has been acting finance director while continuing as Wayland's assistant town administrator and HR director. FinCom thanked Senchyshyn for his yeomanlike work during this time.
-- Betty Salzberg
SELECTMEN SPLIT ON DPW BALLOT QUESTION
On Monday, Feb. 25, selectmen voted 3-2 on the ballot question for funding the proposed new DPW facility by means of debt exclusion. While Chairman John Bladon thought that majority margin meant the motion had passed, town administrator Fred Turkington corrected him. Debt exclusion votes are required by state law to be approved by a two-thirds majority vote of the Board of Selectmen. Passage therefore required a minimum of four "yes" votes. Selectmen Bladon, Steve Correia and Joe Nolan voted in favor while selectmen Ed Collins and Doug Leard voted against, so the motion failed.
The deadline for informing the state to include a debt exclusion question on the April 2 town election ballot was Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Some residents have suggested that the Town should fund the DPW facility project using non-exempt borrowing. That can still happen at the upcoming Town Meeting, according to statements made after the selectmen voted. There are others who have suggested that the project is not yet ready for an $11+ million funding green light from voters, given unresolved site issues affecting project design and cost, e.g. roadway access, presence of Native American archaeological resources, methane gas mitigation.
On Monday, Feb. 25, the posting of some DPW project-related documents was announced on the town website. Most are links to reports and designs by Weston & Sampson consultants.
To access WayCAM's on demand recordings of Monday's Selectmen's meeting:
Public comment in Part 1, board discussion and vote in Part 2.
The DPW project permitting process continues at the ConCom on Feb. 28. The next meeting of the Permanent Municipal Building Committee is posted for Tuesday, March 5.
-- Linda Segal
THURSDAY, Feb. 28:
Wayland Housing Authority, 7 p.m. http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_HousingAgendas/Agendas%202013/Agenda%202013.02.28.pdf
Community Preservation Committee, 7:30 p.m. Discussion about April town meeting proposals
Conservation Commission , 7:30 p.m. Continued public hearing for DPW project Phase I, excluding access roadway. Jan. 24 ConCom DPW hearing minutes: http://www.wayland.ma.us/pages/WaylandMA_ConservationMin/Final%20Approved%20Minutes%20January%2024,%202013.pdf
Energy Initiatives Advisory Committee, 7:30 p.m. Ongoing green initiatives, networking with Finance Committee & Facilities dept., grant funding
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor