Dukes County Commission Meeting Minutes
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
County Administration Building
Call to Order
Chairman Lenny Jason called the County Commissioner’s meeting to order at 5:10 p.m. Commissioners Tristan Israel, Les Leland, Melinda Loberg, Tom Hallahan and Carlene Gatting were present.
Carlene/ Les moved to approve Minutes of 12/17/08. All in favor.
Les asked to postpone the approval of the Minutes of 1/14/09 to the next meeting. No objections. Postponed.
County Manager’s Report
Connie Teixeira informed the Commissioners that an RV was donated to help the homeless on the island. Auto and liability insurance is needed and they would like to do it under the County umbrella policy. It would be used to give the homeless shelter. Les asked where the vehicle would be stored. Connie said she talked to different Tisbury departments - Board of Health, Zoning Board, Police Chief etc. There are lots of logistics to be worked out. Tom asked if Connie could come up with a proposal for insurance with the cost for it, so they could make a better decision. Tristan said that David Vigneault has set up an account for donations under the Island Affordable Housing Fund to be used for the homeless. Melinda asked who would be the owner of the RV. Connie said that this is still up for discussion. Tristan said that this
is not for one person, it is for whoever will need a shelter.
Carlene/Melinda moved for Connie to meet with the County Treasurer to discuss different options and to talk with the insurance company. Lenny suggested looking into how the 4H van was handled back in 1996. All in favor.
The Pilgrim Resource Conservation & Development Area Council - Report by T.J. Hegarty
T.J. informed the Board that the RC & D is offering a Scholarship to High School seniors and he is looking for press release of it by the County. The RC & D submitted a proposal for 100 million dollar challenge grant for programs throughout the country as part of the stimulus package. T.J. talked with Mark Forest, who said that they could not find it in the stimulus package.
Rodent Control program – T.J. reported that the revenues are up from last year. He has already exceeded the budgeted $20,000 for the FY09. He will be meeting with the towns to insure the acceptance of the warrant articles for support of the program.
Russell and Tristan participated in a preliminary meeting last Wednesday with commercial fishermen to explore the possibilities of organizing a fishermen’s group with the County’s assistance. There are many issues. Warren Dotty and Tom Osmers will be the ad hoc chairmen so they can call the next meetings. The next step would be to advertise the next meeting and have a dialog with all interested parties in the fisheries. Russell said that there are competing issues but there is consensus that the fisheries in general should be protected and there were common areas that all agreed need to be changed in the fisheries on the New England cost.
Beach planting on State Beach
Russell reported that the grant received through the Department of Recreation and Conservation to manage State Beach is designated mainly for erosion control and prevention and to protect the endangered species. We will be spending $4000 for over 50,000 plugs of beach grass and planting it in March according to a plan done by Don Liptack from USDA, who determined what areas need it the most. We will be sharing the cost of delivery with Cow Bay, who is also having some work done. We will be again looking for some help from the Sheriff’s department.
Barrier Beach Task Force had a meeting regarding the little bridge and big bridge construction. They are working on the woodwork on walkways and there will not be closing to one lane this season. We had different options on the form liner under the bridge and Russell showed the sample that most likely will be the final one the agreed on.
Eastville Beach – Tristan informed that the spotted nap weed removal will be on March 7th at 12noon and it will be advertised in the paper. Russell said that the planting at State Beach will be a week or two later based on the delivery of the beach grass. Lenny asked if they contacted the Sheriff for help. Tristan said not yet, but that is a good idea and they have other things they would like him to do there.
ESRI software – all contracts signed and we are waiting for delivery.
Legislation for part of the royalties from Cape Wind Project go back to the Cape & Islands – Russell with Tad Crawford’s help prepared letters to our state and federal representatives to support the legislation. Commissioners signed it.
Budget update on FY2009
Noreen distributed spreadsheets estimating the year-end numbers.
Income: Cape & Island License plates is way ahead because of a one time special plate sale generating an additional $84,000. Deeds excise will be close to $50,000 less then anticipated. Courthouse should be a little more – The State has made two payments so far totaling $14,000. Estimated payments this year should total $56,000.
Miscellaneous - The alarm fee income is $125,625. It will be $500-600 over what is estimated. Retiree’s health and life insurance income would be $9000 less (one retiree expired and we will not be reimbursed for the money) and we will have $1,500 more in expenses. We received about $3500 last year from the Trustees of Reservations; we expect about $5000 this year. Treasurer’s income is up by $10,000 for grant administration of two new Youth Task Force grants. Other $4000 is interest income that is less then anticipated.
Integrated Pest Management is ahead of schedule by about $6500. Registry fees are down about $88,000. Sales are not there so we don’t have the income.
Expense side: We don’t have the expense for the Courthouse roof repair and interest of $37,500. County Commissioners budgeted about $62,000 more then needed and there will be savings as Russell was not an employee and did not have health insurance benefits and we overestimated for liability insurance also. Parking clerk will have $430 return on expenses. Courthouse is over by $6,857– the electricity and heath are more then anticipated and little more on insurance. NY building is over by $1600; they had issues with the furnace ($3500 so far). $2,098 is insurance money that shall be returned to us.
Miscellaneous will be about $6800 less as we did not use much for legal fees. Economic Development about $3200 over on advertising for the Cape & Islands License Plates. VHCAP should bring back about $600. Health Council did not spend anything yet, but they might give $4000 to the VHCAP at the end of the year. Tristan does not like that. Noreen said she would talk to Julia Burgess, the Treasurer to see what plans they have. Melinda said she was at the last Health Council meeting and they had discussion about the $4000 and she believes that they decided not to support the VHCAP budget with it this year. Carlene asked why we allocate $4000 to them. Noreen said that they put it a budget as every other department. They had a salary for person taking minutes in the past and it is unusual that they did not spend anything so far this year.
Everybody agreed that Russell should contact the Health Council to give money back to the County budget. Natural Resources – we allocated about $3500 for liability insurance for the beaches but the whole policy was divided based on value of the buildings, which gets tricky with the beach. Melinda asked if we do have liability for our beaches. Noreen said yes. Carlene asked how much liability we have on the beaches. Noreen said she could find out. Emergency management – Chuck did 15% reduction on his own budget -$1,760. County Treasurer is $17,000 over, we had $5000 bill for the software maintenance that we did not anticipated until this year. Pest Management will spend $1000 less on supplies. Veterans’ agent reduced her budget by $300. Registry of Deeds and Sheriff’s expenses we don’t have control over. We will be about $65,000 in black based on those estimates and Noreen will keep updating it. It is thanks to the extra payment from the Cape &
Island license plates. Otherwise we would be about $13,000 under, which is very good considering our income is off by $120,000 from the Registry of deeds alone. Carlene asked if the special license sale is only a one-time thing. Noreen said yes. Tom asked what items are under the Miscellaneous line. Noreen said it is about 6 items: VTH maintenance, accounting, legal, miscellaneous contractual, Cape & Island EMS service, advertising. Tom asked for electronic version of the spreadsheet.
Noreen informed the Commissioners that the Cape Cod Municipal Health Group steering committee made decision on recommendations for rates for FY2010: the combined rates will increase by 5.4%, Medex rates for retirees increase by 0%, Indemnity plans will increase by 7.5%, PPO 6.5%, HP HMO 3%, BC/BS HMO somewhere in between. Noreen will correct the departments’ budgets for FY2010 as she originally indicated a 10% increase when preparing the budget.
Lenny spoke with David Vigneault regarding the County providing accounting services for the Vineyard Regional Housing Authority. They will meet with Noreen to discuss the possibility.
We received a letter from Privatized Development and Tax-Exempt Financing for the Public Sector. Lenny thinks it has some possibilities. There is a need in all towns for storage. We could have a representative come and speak to us. Carlene asked if it could generate income. Lenny said it could at least provide a service to the towns. Tom asked if there is a storage issue. Lenny said Edgartown has already built some storage. Tristan said that Tisbury definitely has a need for storage.
Commissioners agreed to send Best Wishes to Paul Strauss and his wife.
Health insurance sub-committee report
Melinda said that they had a 2nd meeting and learned that if we decide to discontinue the Master Medical plan for everybody. This would save some money. Also looking to plan for the announcement and negotiations about the 75/25 split and the possibility to pay a differential percentage based on the cost of particular health insurance plan.
Tristan asked if we have to go to the Airport Commission or to the unions to open a discussion about these changes. Melinda said the committee is not sure what is the process exactly. There is a decision bargaining or an impact bargaining and they are different. The decision bargaining means that if we would like to announce the decision to go to 75/25 we would have to go through the negotiation process first, which could take a year. Tom said it would be good to eliminate the Master Medical plan for the FY2010 and work on the 75/25 split change for the future. Noreen clarified that Master Medical plan would be eliminated for all employees, but it could be done because there are no current employees on it, only retirees and we can make the decision and the unions would only impact bargain it. Melinda said that the All Island Fin Com was also
discussing recommendation to eliminate the Master Medical plan across the island and said that it could be replaced with equal or better plan, which would save people money, and so the question of a negative impact on employees does not seem to be there. Tristan said that if the recommendation comes from the sub-committee to do this he would like to have a meeting with the retirees and employees before the Commissioners vote on it. The Committee is planning on having such a meeting. The sub-committee wants to have another meeting before it makes final decision and recommendation to the board. Noreen said that under Chapter 32B every town should have an insurance advisory board, which includes retirees and department heads and asked if she should notify all affected retirees now. Tom said he would prefer to wait until the decision is final.
Appointment – deadline for applications was Friday, February 6th. We received applications for most of the positions. There is couple of open positions on the Health Council and one for the M.V. Airport Commission. Commissioners decided to re-advertise for the one year unexpired term in the paper. The applications to the Health Council were forwarded to Chris Knowles the Chair of their Nominating Committee. The late applications should be taken out of the process.
Finance Committee for FY2010 budget
Les reported that he and John met with Noreen on Monday and went over the line items and made adjustments to cut another $19,000. They also discussed other possibilities on how to balance the budget. One option is to reduce employee hours by 6 hours per week, which is 15% cut in salaries. Another option is to eliminate the payment for the Cape & Island EMS service. Tom asked about what % of the total budget is the gap. Les said that the last presented proposal for FY2010 budget was $87,000 at loss; Noreen was able to come up with ideas to reduce it by $19,000, which still leaves a $68,000 shortfall. If we reduce salaries by 15% (6 hours less a week), it would be $70,000 savings. Tristan said he would like to have a meeting with the employees to make them understand the situation if we were to start talking about cutting the employees’ salary and have enough time for this discussion and not to be pressed by any deadlines. He also suggested looking at the FY2011. Melinda would also
like to know the dates for deadline of the budget so she can tell the Tisbury Fin Com what the County will be submitting for a request from the towns. Carol asked Les how many of the 90 plus County employees this cut would effect and if it includes the Registry of Deeds’ employees. Les said it would only be the employees listed on the County budget – 13 employees and it would not include the Registry of Deeds’ employees. Lenny clarified that these are only suggestions; it is not a recommendation of the Financial Committee. Lenny also asked if they talked about generating additional revenue, may be looking into getting back the Norton Point Beach management. Les said they did not talk about it. Carlene asked if the sub-committee would make any recommendations. Les said they only had one meeting and went over the budget with Noreen and they don’t have any recommendations yet. Tom said he would prefer if the recommendation to cut employees’ hours
would comes from the County Manager as it will affect the moral of the staff which he oversees. He would like to see the sub-committee to look at changes in services and revenues and leave the discussion about salary cuts to the County Manager. Carlene said that there needs to be agreement among the Commissioners that they want to look at the employees’ hours and cuts and then Russell should talk to the employees. Carlene asked if the committee needs to meet again. Les said that they went through the budget and they did not find any other place to cut. Noreen said she did not prepare for this discussion, as her understanding was there would not be a report from the committee at this meeting. She gave Russell and Lenny a sheet showing savings of about $24,000 by eliminating the Master Medical plan and the Cape & Islands EMS. The 75/25 changes cannot happen this year. Noreen and Russell came up with two things that would require legislation: Sheriff’s bill has taken
lots of liabilities away from the County. Section 10 of the filed legislation talks about assessing the towns and paying for the unfunded pension liabilities of the Sheriff’s retirees. We would like to change it to “unfunded liabilities”, which would also let us pay the unfunded health benefits of the retirees, which would be $89,000 savings for the County. Our Sheriff is supportive of this and is going to talk to the Administration and Finance to make an amendment when it gets to a committee to say “unfunded liabilities”. Russell said that we are corresponding with our representatives about the changes in Section 10 to make sure that the State doesn’t take the assets and leave us with the liabilities. Carlene asked what it would mean for the FY2010 budget. Noreen said it would save $89,000 this year and it would wipe out the shortfall. Carlene asked when would we know if the bill will pass and if it will affect our FY2010 budget.
Russell said by April. Noreen said that all the Cape Representatives except for Tim Madden, who was not sure how Dukes County feels, did sign to support the Sheriff’s Bill. Russell said that we corresponded with everyone letting them know that if they fix the Section 10 as we are asking, we will support the bill too. Tom asked if he have number in the house to look at the bill under on the State House website. Russell said the Governor and the Administration and Finance introduced it; we have only a paper copy. Les said that he feels that we cannot submit a budget based on speculations on whether or not the bill will pass.
Tristan/Melinda moved to dispense the Finance Committee and allow the Board to be a Committee in a whole to go over the budget at the next regular scheduled meeting. Discussion: Melinda –There will be another Health Insurance Sub-committee meeting and a meeting with Russell and Noreen to come up with other ideas how to balance the budget. Tristan mentions option to have a part-time manager. Carlene said she would like to have another finance sub-committee meeting also. Lenny said that this is an exceptional time when we are facing loosing an important part of the County to the State and he feels that we don’t have to rush to get the budget done. We should give the Finance Committee an opportunity to come up with some recommendations. We can keep operating in the meantime. The crises will be if the Sheriff does not go over
to the State. Russell said that the proposed budget already does not include COLA (it was already voted on); it includes the step increases, which are the lowest from all the regional agencies (2%). We have letters from all the towns asking for level funding, which allows us only to have a 2.5% increase in assessments to the towns. The 2.5% increase in assessing the towns, which the County did for last 20 years does not cover our increase in health insurance, energy bills and other expenses. Our inability to tax for revenue puts the County on a negative slope.
So voted. Yes – Tristan. No – Tom, Les, Melinda, Carlene, Lenny. Motion did not carry. Tristan clarified that this decision means that Les, John and Noreen will continue to meet.
Tom asked to have the Agenda couple of days in advance and have the minutes from the last meeting available before the next meeting. He also suggested to upload the minutes on the website in pdf format so they cannot be manipulated.
Carlene/ Melinda moved to adjourn the meeting at 7 p.m.
Respectfully Submitted by:
JOSEPH E. SOLLITTO JR., Clerk of the Courts