Joint Meeting of
Dukes County Commission
Advisory Board on County Expenditures
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Dukes County Administration Building
9 Airport Road, Edgartown, MA
Commissioner Present: Carlene Gatting, Tristan Israel, Melinda Loberg, Les Leland, Tom Hallahan.
County Advisory Board (CAB) members Present: Art Smadbeck (Edgartown), Jeff Kristal (Tisbury), Skipper Manter (West Tisbury), Frank Fenner (Chilmark)
County Staff present: Russell H. Smith – County Manager, Martina Thornton – Ex. Assistant to County Manager, JoAnn Murphy – Veteran’s Agent, Dianne Powers – Register of Deeds, Carol Grant – Assistant Treasurer, Sarah Kuh – Vineyard Health Care Access Program (VHCAP) Director.
*Others: Jon Snyder – Chairman of the All Island Fin Com and member of the County Finance Committee, Tad Crawford and Cynthia Mitchell – VHCAP Board members, Joanie Ames of MVTV.
1. Meeting was called to order at 5:05 PM
2. Transfer of $5K from the reserve fund for Assoc. Commissioner for Homeless
Russell informed the CAB members that the commissioners voted at their last meeting to transfer $5K from the reserve fund to the budget line for Associate Commissioner for Homeless, Connie Teixeira, to help fight homelessness this winter before she finds out if she receives federal funding in January. She presented a budget at the last meeting for last year - about $15K. She works closely with the community services, tries to prevent homelessness, puts people up in a hotel or sends them to an off island shelter. Carlene said that Connie needed the money almost immediately. Skipper asked where the money goes to. Martina said it goes to the Associate Commissioners budget like in the FY2011 budget. Jeff asked about the role of the Vineyard Housing Authority. Martina said that Connie works with that agency and when she receives grants they are
administered through the VHA. She will not know if she gets the federal funding until January, but she needs money now to help people through these cold nights. Jeff said that when town of Tisbury met with the VHA about funding from the CPC, there was no mention about this. He feels that next year there should be a request from the VHA for additional CPC money from all the towns for this effort if needed and Connie should work closely with them. Frank asked how the previous $26K budget was funded from October 2009 to October 2010. Russell said that she received federal grants and private donations. Tristan added that she paid for travel and other stuff herself. The $5K request is for right now. Melinda said that Connie took this issue up last year and single-handedly helped the homeless. This request is for emergency funding and the island leadership should look at this issue and come up with a plan for the future.
Jeff/Skipper moved to transfer $5K from the reserve fund to the Associate Commissioner’s budget line. So voted. All CAB members present in favor.
2. VHCAP – warrant article formula – Tad Crawford, Cynthia Mitchell
Tad presented the spreadsheet with the current and new proposed formula and explained the differences. The new formula will implement a true 50/50 formula (50% based on equalized valuation of taxable property in each town and 50% on population) to the whole request for funding to the towns $150K – combined county warrant article (that is based on equalized valuation only) and the second warrant article from the VHCAP. This is based on an understanding that once this program is fully funded by the towns (FY2014) the 50/50 formula will be used to allocate the cost to each town. Cindy said that the proposed new formula would this year be a one time adjustment to move in the right direction, which would result in savings for Edgartown, Chilmark and Aquinnah and increased expense for Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury. John Snyder
pointed out a discrepancy in calculation under Oak Bluffs and Tisbury as the percentages were reversed in the proposed formula. Cindy does not see the public having a problem with this at the town meeting as they supported the VHCAP effort in all towns before. They put the new formula forward this year based on request by the Town of Edgartown as two years ago they did not even put the second article on their town warrant and in order to get funded this year they needed to make some changes. Frank expressed a concern with what happens if the second article is voted down in one or two towns. Tad said that it would be ultimately the VHCAP that would be paying the consequences and if there is a general feeling that the program should not continue then it would have to be phased out. Carlene suggested calling Ron DiOrio as he represents one of the towns that will be asked for an additional expense. Tad asked for a vote by both bodies in support of the new proposed formula. Tom
supported the request as the VHCAP is a county program and the commission should express their feeling about this.
Tom/Les moved to support the new formula. So voted. All county commissioners in favor.
Jeff/ Skipper moved to support the new formula. So voted. All CAB members in favor.
*Sarah Kuh and Cynthia Mitchell left.
3. FY2012 Budget Guidelines discussion
Tom said that a new standing committee was created – a county finance committee and he introduced the members: Chair for the All Island Fin Coms – Jon Snyder, County Manager - Russell Smith and one county commissioner – Tom. The County Treasurer will be used as resource. The commissioners adopted new budget guidelines that should serve as a timeline for the budget development process and should make the budget process more effective. It calls for more involvement by the CAB and a couple of joint meetings of the CAB and the county commissioners. We are currently behind schedule but plan to be on track by January. It calls for public hearings at the end of February. Martina clarified that in January the budget should be presented to both boards but does not have to be done in a joint meeting as the joint meeting is planned
for the end of February as a joint public hearing, which saves on advertising two separate public hearings (about $350). Tom would like to discuss with the CAB the guidelines for preparing the budget for FY2012. Russell said he was unaware of the guidelines as it was voted on in 2007 before he got the job but was never attached to the Administrative Code.
Art said that the timeline looks good and it is a moving target. He asked for quarterly reports that also show where we are as far as expenses and revenues compared to budget and to the previous year. Carlene said that the commissioners had the same request. Frank supported the commissioners getting the draft budget first and making the first obvious adjustments before it is presented to the CAB. Tom said he would like to be able to work out differences before the joint public hearing in February.
Tristan asked for the CAB to express their general budget philosophy rather sooner and not at the last minute take the 2.5% increase off the budget. Art said that as the towns take on the non-mandated programs there should be some reductions in county expenditures. Also the departure of the Sheriff’s Office should be reflected. If the income lines do not look too good the 2.5% might make sense but if we are doing well, reduction might be in place.
Tom said that last year the county employees at the administration building suffered compared to the Airport employees who are also county employees yet they were treated differently as far as COLA and placement on the grade scale. In towns all employees are treated equally when it comes to issues like that and there should be a consistency. Art said that they did not reduce the budget they increased the income of the Registry based on historic data and that is how they were able to reduce the town assessment by 2.5%. Tom said he would like to propose for the FY2012 a 2.5% cap on the budget. Frank said he would like a zero based budget – flat funding unless the increase is justified. Jonathan said that Tisbury is asking for flat budget. Russell said that the County made a major change in moving to 75-25 health insurance split and new
grade and step scale was adopted with 4% between steps to get close to the town’s pay scale. JoAnn Murphy as representative of the county employees asked the county commissioners and the CAB to consider a COLA for FY2012 as the county employees did not receive COLA for two years and it would be a third year in a row without COLA.
Dianne Powers requested that the CAB have her be part of the conversation prior to changing her revenue projections as she is very nervous about meeting the additional $20K projection She budgets conservatively and would rather come out ahead than not meet the projection. Russell gave the CAB the same information as presented to the county commissioners last week about the county services, revenue income chart and the history of Maintenance of Effort (MOE) showing that most of the town assessment goes towards the state mandated MOE for the Sheriff’s Office and the Registry of Deeds leaving only on average in last 14 years about 7.5% of the town assessment to fund the general county operation (about $55K). Frank asked why is the Sheriff’s MOE level funded for FY2011. Martina explained that as the Sheriff’s Office
transferred over to the state the legislation required that the MOE stays at the FY2009 level and goes to fund the unfunded liabilities of the retired Sheriff’s Office employees until funded in full. Art said that once funded in full the towns assessment should be decreased by this amount, which also affects the 2.5%. Tristan said that Noreen worked hard on this to make sure that the County is treated fairly and is not left with unfunded liabilities.
** Tom Hallahan, Tristan Israel and JoAnn Murphy left the meeting.
4. DOR Financial Management Report – creation of a steering committee
Carlene said that the County responded to the Report as they did not have enough time to spend here and number of the recommendations are already in place or are in process of being put in place. The main point was that the structure of the County is ineffective and needs to be changed to the Council of Governments, which allows the towns to share regional services through inter-municipal agreements. Carlene feels that there is a disconnect between the county commissioners who could implement regional services and the towns where the regional services should originate. She pointed out that the County has an Advisory Board that is comprised of selectmen from each island town. It would make sense to have them be more involved at the budget process but also come with proposals what the towns need and want the county could do. She would like to
create a steering committee that will look at different options how to restructure the county to be more efficient. She appointed Tom, Melinda and herself to represent the county commissioners; Tad Crawford (member of the last Charter Study Commission), Denny Wortman (former CAB member and selectman) and Peg Reagan (former high school principal) to represent the community at large and she would like 3 CAB representatives to join them. Art agreed to participate. He feels that the County works well right now. The County did a good job starting the new animal shelter after MSPCA left. He feels that new things present themselves and he does not feel the pressure to meet every month.
* Dianne Powers left the meeting.
Skipper said that he feels there are too many of the county commissioners on the committee; he would like to see one and invite new open minded people to participate instead. Carlene said that the commissioners are open-minded and have different ideas. Skipper agreed to serve on the committee. Tad said that the Charter Study Commission struggled with the problem that is how can the county commissioners be more accountable to the towns, which is the same issue as with the MV Commission. There are things that can be done without the need to create a Council of Governments as this is a tool for the State to strip revenues and leave the towns with the liabilities. The County should be empowering regional efforts as opposed to running regional efforts. There has already been lot accomplished with the Vineyard Transit Authority, Steamship
Authority etc. The Health Council works as a forum to identify needs and address them. We don’t govern the activities. Lots of money was raised thanks to being part of the County and island-wide. The County should be a support structure for the towns as opposed to another form of government. He feels that all the towns should be represented to be able to express their needs. Jeff said that the County relies more and more on the towns, there are worthy programs and he will sit on the committee if it looks at a long-term solution 2-3 years down the road. Art suggested sending an invitation to the steering committee meetings to all CAB members.
*Tom Hallahan came back to the meeting.
Tom suggested having all County commissioners present since all CAB members will be invited as well. Carlene said there will only be 3-4 commissioners present. Melinda repeated Skipper’s view that there needs to be fresh look aside from the county commissioners. They agreed that the first meeting of the steering committee will be on February 3rd at 4PM at the County Administration Building. Everyone should be familiar with the Executive Summary of the last Charter Study Commission. It is available at the County Office. Tom said he will not be able to meet that day and suggested having Tristan attend instead.
5. County Personnel Board
Melinda said that the Personnel Board was created to look at different personnel matters and also to serve as the appellate board for grievances. It should be made up of one member of the County Advisory Board, one member of the Airport Commission, member of town personnel board, employee representative (JoAnn Murphy) and one at large. We chose the Sheriff for his experience in personnel matters. The CAB nominated Ron DiOrio as their representative.
6. New Business
Russell reported that the Cape Light Compact negotiated new electric rates for the towns at 7.57cents per kWh, which is substantial decrease from last year’s 9.67 cents per kWh.
Les/Melinda moved to adjourn the meeting at 7:52 p.m. All in favor.
Respectfully Submitted by:
JOSEPH E. SOLLITTO JR., Clerk of the Courts
Documents presented at the meeting and part of the official records:
- VHCAP FY2012 Alternative Funding Formula
- Timeline – DCC Budget Process
- Correspondence from T.J. Hegarty
- Correspondence from Tammy Deese