Dukes County Commission Meeting Minutes
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Tisbury Senior Center
Call to Order
Chairman Leslie Leland called the County Commissioner’s meeting to order at 4:10 p.m. Commissioners Tristan Israel, John Alley, Leonard Jason, Jr., Melinda Loberg and Carlene Gatting were present.
Also in attendance were County Manager Russell Smith, Executive Assistant Martina Thornton, County Treasurer Noreen Mavro-Flanders, and Joanie Ames of MVTV.
Les Leland asked the County Clerk Joe Sollitto to swear in the re-elected County Treasurer Noreen Mavro-Flanders and the re-elected Commissioners Lenny Jason, Jr. and John Alley. Mr. Sollitto swore in the newly elected officials.
Les appointed Melinda Loberg, Lenny Jason and Tom Hallahan to a sub-committee to discuss change of a health insurance contribution split from 90/10 to 75/25.
Tristan/Carlene moved to support the Chairman’s appointments of the sub-committee. All in favor.
Les said he asked Melinda to Chair the first organizational meeting of the sub-committee and meet with Russell and Noreen to discuss this issue. Russell added that the Sheriff and Sean Flynn, the Airport Manager shell be included also as we cannot negotiate directly with the unions, they have to do it.
John/Tristan moved to approve the minutes of November 12, 2008. So voted. All in favor.
Tristan/Melinda moved to approve the minutes of December 3, 2008. Discussion: Carlene added that she left the meeting before Noreen’s presentations of Budget Considerations. Les said this shall be noted in the minutes. So voted. All in favor.
Carlene/ Melinda moved to defer the election of Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the County Commission to the next meeting on January 28, 2009, preceded by discussion with a full Board present. So voted. All in favor.
GIS system update – Russell reported that we have agreement from all 6 towns to participate. He has the contract on his desk and he gave it to Chris Seidel at the MV Commissioner, Ron Burson - Sheriff’s IT person and Travis Larsen from Oak Bluffs to make sure the contract is what they expected. Russell would like to have it signed by the end of this week. MVPSIS sub-committee will meet next week to decide how to distribute the software and who will be the contact people within the system that will supply tech support. Carlene asked, if we have written agreements with the towns. Russell said yes, we have a memorandum of understanding we asked each town to sign, which states they will pay 1/9 of the cost.
YMCA – Russell was contacted by the YMCA stating that they wanted to submit a grant to the Lieutenant Governor for a shovel ready project as part of the economic stimulus package of the newly elected President. The Y is a shovel ready project. They have permits and money to start the construction. It is a project with regional benefit. We helped them submit the grant. There are about 30 grant applications for shovel ready projects on the Island that we know about. There was letter of appreciation from the YMCA’s Board for the help and support. Les read the letter. Carlene and Les complimented Russell for doing a great job getting this done on a weeks notice.
Legislation filed – Russell reported that today was the last day for filing legislation. We filed the changes for the County Charter legislation regarding the County Manager position. In particular, island residency requirement, to serve at the pleasure of the Board and the position to be full time or part-time. We also filed the Room tax legislation and we will track both.
Letter to Roger Wey thanking him for his tenure as County Commissioner. Russell read the letter. Tristan/Carlene moved to approve the letter. All in favor.
Proposed legislation regarding financing of Sheriff’s operations
Noreen reported that in fiscal year 2009 the Sheriff’s Office was once again not fully funded. She and some of the Commissioners went to a meeting in September of the Association of County Commissioners to work with the Sheriffs to come up with legislation that would help solve their funding issue and keep them within the County at the same time. The County Commissioners’ Group has put together three bills. One would make the Sheriff a line item on the state budget so he can be sure that he is going to be fully funded. The deeds’ excise tax would be split differently. 80% of the collections would go to the Commonwealth to funds sheriff operations with the other 20% being split 60/40 county/registry. Now it is 57.5% that goes to Commonwealth and of the 42.5% that we keep 75% goes to the Sheriff, 15% to the county
and 10% to the registry.
Another bill proposes a deeds excise surcharge of 18% that the counties would keep. The Commonwealth would keep the 18% in the abolished counties (about $32 million a year). If we could get this bill implemented now, it would help the revenue shortfalls of this year.
The third change would be increase in registry fees. It is a $10 increase on most fees and would go to the County (to the Commonwealth in abolished counties). In 2003 when Governor Romney implemented the extra fees to offset the costs for registries, all of it went to the Commonwealth’s general fund to support the state registries, including the increased fees collected by the registries that are owned by the Counties. This would make up for it and give more money to the Counties.
Sheriff McCormack gave Noreen two drafts of their proposed bill. The Sheriffs are working with the Administration & Finance and their attorney David Sullivan on the State taking over the County Sheriffs. The Sheriff said that A&F had told him that there would be no supplemental budget.
Noreen distributed a sheet showing the differences of the current law, the Sheriffs’ proposed bill (draft No.8) and the Counties’ proposals and what impact it would have on the County. Currently there is not a separate line item in the state budget for the Sheriff, which is the problem. At this time all the money sent to the Commonwealth from the deeds excise goes to a county corrections fund and all the county Sheriffs have to decide who gets how much.
The real estate occupied by the Sheriff belongs to the County. The Sheriffs’ bill says that all the buildings would go to the Commonwealth. Under the Counties’ bill we would keep the real estate.
Now the Maintenance of effort for FY09 is $517,702 and it is increasing by 2.5% per year. Same is true under the Counties’ proposals. Under the Sheriff’s bill the maintenance of effort amount would be the same, and it would stay the same for at least 25 years. Originally the Sheriffs’ bill said that it would give relief to the towns because it would reduce their assessment by the maintenance of effort amount. The first draft allowed the state to take the amount from the towns’ cherry sheets to pay for any unfunded pension liabilities. The 8th draft says that the amount of maintenance of effort is a county assessment to the towns “for the purpose of covering the unfunded county pension liabilities of the retired sheriff’s office
employees that remain in the county retirement systems….. When these liabilities are paid off, or after the term of 25 years, these counties shall continue to appropriate (to assess the towns) an amount equal to the minimum obligation to fund from their own revenues in the year 2009 the operations of the office of the sheriff, but shall pay such amounts to the state treasurer, who shall place such funds in the Commonwealth General Fund.” So we would be assessing the towns but would be just a conduit for the money to get to the State. The towns would not see any relief other than that it would become a fixed amount.
The employees now are county employees paid out of the Sheriff’s budget. According to the Sheriffs’ bill they would become state employees but the unfunded pension liability of the current Sheriff’s employees would become a County liability as of the transfer date (July 1st, 2009). Under the County Bill everything stays the same – the current employees and retirees would stay with the county retirement system and their unfunded liability and the OPEB would stay with the County but would be paid through the Sheriff’s budget.
Russell commented that up to this point Sheriff was paying for his retirees from his own budget but under the Sheriffs’ Bill it would be the Counties paying for it. Noreen said that we could use the towns’ assessments for the retirees’ unfunded liability, but the other three stay will the County. That is the current employee unfunded retirement liability, the retirees’ OPEB liability (life & health insurance) and current employees’ OPEB liability. Tristan asked if we would have to increase the assessments to the towns to make up for the difference. Noreen said that she hopes that if the Sheriffs’ Bill goes through, they would add legislation so we can assess the towns to pay for the unfunded retirement liability of the current employees also, as well as pay for the OPEB.
Noreen said that there is only one County Sheriff that is not on board with the A&F Bill. The three County Bills have been filed already. Melinda asked that since the Sheriffs’ bill switches the funding of the Sheriffs to the Commonwealth, does it mean lesser funding from the towns. Noreen said no because we would not reduce the assessment to the towns and after 25 years of the assessments being used to cover the unfunded retirement liabilities of the Sheriff’s retirees, we would keep assessing the towns but then turning it to over the State.
Carlene asked if the Communications Center operation is part of the Sheriff’s department or if it is the County’s operation. Noreen said that the operation is Sheriff’s but the building is County’s. The Bill says that any and all statutorily authorized functions of the Sheriff would be transferred to the Commonwealth and that the Sheriff said he would continue the Communication Center as it is. It is one of his statutorily authorized functions. The question is if they still use the current building, as it belongs to the County and the Airport. Martina commented that according to the bill all leases would stay in place and the Sheriff would intend to keep the lease with the Airport.
Lenny suggested we wait to see what the final bill will be. Russell said that since it is being filed as legislation, there will be a committee assigned to it and there will be a public hearing and we will have chance to respond. If it had been done as an outside section of the budget, there would not be a public hearing.
Les reminded the Commissioners to file the year-end Campaign Finance Disclosure Report with the MA State Ethics Commission by January 20th, 2009. You can do it on-line.
Les informed the Commissioners that we are advertising for the volunteer positions in the newspaper and we did a News Release regarding this also.
Tristan informed that he attended a Community services’ meeting and one of the things discussed were the Governor’s cuts to the department of mental health services and adult services. Currently there is no caseworker for DMH on the island. At this time the case workers on the Cape expect to double or triple the number of cases. We need to start advocating for those people. Lenny asked what the Community services are intending to do about it. Tristan said that the meeting he attended was about finding beds for people with short-term emotional needs, alcohol and substance abuse problems and homeless. Lenny suggested to send a letter to support the DMH and Elderly services and asked Russell to find out, who would be the appropriate party to send it to.
Lenny asked when would we start to work on the budget. Russell said we could start at the next meeting.
Carlene requested an on-going list of things that the Commissioners decided they would do and requested to be done to be part of their packets as a reminder.
Les/John moved to adjourned the meeting at 4.55 p.m. So voted. All in favor.
Respectfully Submitted by:
JOSEPH E. SOLLITTO JR., Clerk of the Courts