Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Live from Town Hall: It's BCG Wednesday morning!
Well, this will pretty much decide the amount of the Override and structure.
10:38 AM Stephanie starts (without the Town Manager). John Musante on cell phone, presumably calling the town manager.
10:45 AM John Musante Updated Cut list. Let's hear from the heads of those budgets. Streetlights put back on list if addition funds come in. Grand total for town budget is $537,252. If state aid is only cut 5% then Pubic Safety (including Police Animal Welfare Officer) are safe. (the Governor's budget actually calls for 0% cut)
10:48 AM Elementary Schools: (Rob Detweiler Business Agent) $400,000 is our request from an Override. SC voted 5-0 for that.
Regional Schools: Asking for $950,000 from the Override. Amherst taxpayers will pay almost $750,000 of that (since we are three quarters of the Region.) Region vote was 8-0-1 (one abstention)
Library: met last night reconsidered the Override and went back to an amount of $88,994 from an Override.
Stephanie: Did they make any strong statement on the Override?
Pat Holland: "No"
Gerry Weiss: Trustees voted for this amount ($89,000) but they are not asking for an Override???
Holland: They are not taking a position on the Override. (Gerry looks a tad pissed)
11:05 AM The Town Manager has entered the room! (who needs Elvis?)
John Musante: $1,765,000 is the new (and improved) grand total for the Override.
11:10 AM Stephanie: Priorities are good--but they are inexact. Doing the best we can. We do not have strong Ra Ra support from all the boards. Looking at $1.8 million Override and $2.5 million in cuts. What is our best way to go forward? With a goal of getting some restorations would a Menu Override have a better chance of getting something passed or would a lump sum work better? Had this discussion before but it's now a "fever pitch" point with the general public. Do we want some rather than none?
11:15 AM Irv Rhodes: our 5-0 vote was NOT to support an Override, it was simply to put the $400,000 into the mix but not an official vote on the overall Override. If we had more time we would have come up with a different number. Very, very imperfect number (the $400K.)
Stephanie: "It's clear the School Committee is not vociferously supporting this."
11:20 AM Gerry Weiss reads the entire SC statement. Stephanie: "Again, not strong support for the Override." So how do we get them (schools, town, library) the extra money? Some of this is not "sexy". Library has a serious PR problem with its request (I assume she's talking about the recent six digit gift the Jones Library received)
Catherine Sanderson told Regional School Committee she strongly supported a Menu Override. Andy Churchill on the other hand strongly supported one lump sum (we all rise or fall together.)
11:25 AM Stephanie parses the written report of the FCC. They said to "consider" a menu override and that is what we are now doing. (Hmm...but they were a tad more definitive than that Princess Stephanie--and they also said an Override would be necessary in the next FIVE years.)
Gerry Weiss: Why did FCC recommend Menu?
Stephanie: Because it allows many different people speak to aspects of an Override. The problem is it gives people the right to say NO to certain parts, and it's only a tiny statement. "We give choice too much credit" (Hmm..why am I reminded of President Reagan's observation that the scariest line ever is, "I'm here from the government and I'm here to help".)
11:30 AM Gerry Weiss: "I think a lump sum Override will sink. As a lump sum we're holding each other hostage."
Bonnie Isman (Library) The voters are going to be skeptical. If schools are not ready now, why not go to Town Meeting and have them vote a budget contingent on an Override.
11:45 AM Irv Rhodes: I would welcome a delay. Otherwise, a Menu Override.
11:47 AM Stephanie: Extraordinary amount of discussion with unions (Police and Fire) giving up COLA's. Not fair to now NOT have the Override on 3/23. Contingent Override via Town Meeting is still a "safety net" if the 3/23 Override fails.
11: 52 AM Stephanie: BCG sent preliminary report to Select Board Monday night suggesting "lump sum". Do we now (BCG) still support that?
Gerry Weiss: Yeah, MOST people at this table still supports that (Lump Sum with Allocations)
HERE IT IS FOLKS:
Shall the Town of Amherst be allowed to assess an additional $1,765,441 in real estate and personal property taxes for the purposes of funding the following expenses: Town Operation Budget ($537,252) Elementary Schools Budget ($400,000), Regional schools district Budget ($739,195) and Library Operating Budget ($88,994) for the Fiscal Year beginning July 1, 2010?
Musante: Explain it to the community this way. Extra state aid would be a "Great problem" to grapple with. We can then not levy to the limit as the town in 2004 when that $2 million Override passed. We got an extra $650,000 from the state and the town did reduce the levy of the Override amount that year. (Yes John, but what about the following year and the following year. Amherst has only had two general operation Overrides over the past 30 years and they are still both to this day generating extra revenues.)
Heated discussion between Musante and Rhodes (voices raised), Stephanie acts as ref.
12:08 PM GOTTA GO. If I had to guess they will put the above lump sum Override on the ballot for this coming 3/23. But as Bill O'Reilly would say, "I could be wrong."