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April 2017 Minutes

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Minutes Finance Committee
April 3, 2017

The Finance Committee held the first part of their Monday April 3rd meeting in the Town Hall Meeting Room in a joint meeting with the Education Committee to address Item #5, then later with the Land Use Committee to address Item #6.

The Committee heard presentations on Items 5 from Jim Hricay, BOE Director of Operations on their request for an interim authorization of $70k for the school lunch programs, Item 6 was addressed by Mr. Hricay and Jamie Barr a consultant from Environmental Engineering regarding their request of an interim authorization for $250k for the study of soil at Western Middle School, as well as a presentation from Abby Large (co-chair of Greenwich PTA Food Service Committee) on issues related to diet, and food offered to students at the schools.

After about 45 minutes of presentations and Q&A, the Finance Committee moved to the basement cafeteria, where the meeting was resumed at 8:30. All districts were represented.

ITEM 5: 11-1-0
The first order of business was to vote on Item 5. The vote was 11-1-0 with District 7 voting no. That member expressed concerns that this was the second year in a row that the lunch program had come to the RTM for funds without a sufficient rationale for the request.

However, in raising these concerns the District 7 member accepted that this item could appear on the consent calendar.

ITEM 6: 12-0-0

Item 6 was unanimously approved. The sense of the Committee was that the testing and analysis was necessary, that there was a desire to address the study (and subsequent remediation) ASAP, and as Mr. Hricay explained, there were insufficient funds in the school operating budget.

BOC Report

Dan Ozizmir (a representative from the BOC) gave a presentation outlining the BOC’s summary issues relating to this year’s budget. He noted several high-level themes both verbally and in a written handout:
• That Town Departments and the BET had generally conformed to BOC’s July 2016 budget guidelines,
• That the 2017-18 budget contained significant one-off improvements (e.g. switch to the state health care plan, a $5mm accounting benefit at TNW, and lower first-year GWI increases for teachers)
• He noted that future budgets would be subject to higher GWI, and that those, without this year’s reductions, would put upward pressure on the ’18-’19 budget and mill rate.
• Finally, he highlighted that the ’17-’18 budget had been constructed prior to Governor Malloy’s Jan-Feb 2017 announced budget changes which resulted in a high level of uncertainty in later years.

Mr. Warner observed that this year’s budget had more unknowns that any recent budget. He observed that there was uncertainty about which Town employee groups were going to transition to the State health care plan (the question was raised as to whether the Police had already opted to participate in the State health care plan, or not), the Governor’s attempt to assign ~$10mm of teacher pension funding, and the vote on the New Lebanon school (both of which won’t be known by the time when the RTM votes in May) and the costs of future soil remediation, that this year’s budget was more challenging.

The Committee had numerous questions for Mr. Ozizmir (and Andy Duus, also of the BOC). BET members Jim Lash and Michael Mason also offered their perspective on the budget process.

Mr. Ozizmir suggested that the key question for RTM members was –if faced with higher costs due to actions taken by the State (before or after the May RTM vote) would members prefer: 1) taxes to be raised, 2) expenses (and thereby possibly services) to be cut, or 3) some combination.
Mr. Lash offered that he personally embraced the notion of gradual increases in the mill rate and that any unusually large increase in costs to the Town and that such increases in cost be shifted to BOE for that department to resolve in a manner that allowed for mill rate increases that the Greenwich voters had come to expect.

The Finance Committee agreed to hear from its task force subcommittees at our May meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 9:30 PM.