OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD SPECIAL MEETING MINUTES
January 26, 2015
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 6:16 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Earl Holtz, and Edee Edwards were present. Joe Tamburrino, Marilyn Allen, Jesse Ferland, and Robbin Gabriel were also in attendance. Joan Courser joined the meeting briefly by speaker phone.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Edee Edwards asked whether there was a need to discuss storm preparations. Lewis Sumner said no, all the equipment was in working order and ready to go, and the highway crew had planned to stop work early to rest before going out in the plow trucks.
The Board took a last look at the Highway Department’s equipment schedule, with most of the discussion devoted to best use of the $200,000-plus FEMA reimbursement amount and the pros and cons of leasing versus cash purchase for the Sterling dump truck replacement. Sumner was in favor of direct purchase, which would eliminate $37,000-per-year lease payments over the next five years. Edwards preferred the lease option, to spread payments out over the life of the vehicle. Earl Holtz calculated potential lease interest in the vicinity of $5,000, which he felt was a relatively low amount. Another confusing issue was how to present these options clearly to the voters. At the March 2014 town meeting, voters approved a reserve to be funded with surplus FY14 dollars, but there was no budget surplus in FY14; the FEMA monies did not arrive until FY15. The FEMA dollars cannot be directly incorporated into the FY16 budget proposal, which itemizes only expenses. However, adding the total cost of the new truck to the FY16 equipment budget proposal without showing the FEMA monies as an offset will result in an apparently larger appropriation request for FY16. Also, if the FEMA reimbursement were to be applied as a direct offset, voters would no longer have an opportunity to vote on establishing a reserve fund with any FY15 budget surplus. Joe Tamburrino recommended all this be clearly explained at town meeting, so the voters have a thorough understanding of how each of these choices would affect taxes in the next few years. The Board left the projected five-year leasing costs for the next truck in the equipment schedule.
Marilyn Allen said this was a particularly difficult year; there are people in town who can’t afford to live here, but the market is poor and they cannot sell their property. She suggested it would be psychologically beneficial to present townsfolk with voting options on some of the budget’s individual line items, rather than just the budget as a whole. Allen used the proposed Jacksonville Stage hill paving as an example; the hill is bad, she said, but I drive it all the time and would be willing to see it postponed another year. What can we live without? she asked. She complimented the Board on their budgeting efforts but said the process was very confusing to the average citizen. Tamburrino asked whether people were able to make a motion at town meeting to delete or postpone individual budget items. Yes, said Sumner, they can make an amendment. We try to maintain services at their current level, said Holtz. When we ask which services people are willing to forego, we find residents generally unwilling to relinquish those which directly affect them. In the matter of highway equipment, he noted that keeping older trucks on the road increased maintenance and repair costs considerably. Edwards explained that, with costs of maintaining services generally climbing, even if voters should choose to use FEMA monies to reduce this year’s tax burden there would probably be an increase again in the following year. Remember, added Holtz, if we buy the Sterling truck replacement outright in FY16, the International is still due for replacement in FY17; the town will not have surplus funds to cover that next large expenditure.
Sign Town Meeting Warning
The Board updated the articles in the Town Meeting Warning, inserting current dates and figures and adding an article pertaining to Community Club property tax exemption. They reviewed the social services requests and talked to Joan Courser by speaker phone to verify the Community Club wished to request $2,000 this year. Sumner mentioned the need for additional hand microphones for town meeting. Edwards sent an email to Paul Blais asking for status of repairs on the public address system in the Community Hall. Edwards made a motion to approve and sign the annual Town Meeting Warning as written. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. (Note: After the document was signed and the meeting adjourned, an omission was discovered. The warning will be amended and signed again at the January 31st meeting.)
Hearing of Visitors
The meeting was adjourned at 8:43 p.m.