Thursday, March 12, 2015

Who Guards The Guardians?

Mary Streeter (right) presents to Joint Capital Planning Committee this morning

The Joint Capital Planning Committee, made up of major players from the Town, Schools and Library, heard a courtesy presentation this morning from Mary Streeter, Chair of the Community Preservation Act Committee.

The JCPC uses regular tax money (7.5% of the total tax levy) to fund equipment and building needs for the town of Amherst, with a total operational budget now breaking the $70 million mark.

Department heads must first get JCPC approval for capital items, but then Town Meeting has the final say, which is almost always 100% in agreement with the JCPC recommendations.
The Community Preservation Act surcharge (not to be confused with a tax he said sarcastically) will generate $920,000 this year from properties on the tax roll,  combined with the state match of $239,200 (a lousy 26%), combined with $955,930 in leftover money from last year, giving them a total of $2,115,130 in their pot.

Or as Chair Mary Streeter said to the JCPC, "We're flush with money right now."

The CPA Committee is a separate legal entity and only they can bring proposals to Town Meeting, but they must be related to Open Space/Conservation, Historical Preservation, and Recreation.

Town Meeting can vote down an individual item, but cannot reuse that appropriation amount for anything else. 

All nine proposals brought before the CPA committee earned their recommending for a total of $523,346 ; plus the debt service on previous projects of $321,527; plus the $1,750 annual dues for CPA lobbying group; bringing the total appropriation to $846,633.

That then leaves a balance of $1,268,497 or, still "flush with money."

 CPA Committee may consider another round of funding for Fall Town Meeting

Jewish Community Synagogue steeple repair, a significant project ($175,000), did not make it to final approval because it was withdrawn by the petitioners before the final committee vote was taken, although Ms. Streeter suggested it probably would not have been approved.

The JCPC then moved on to an overall discussion of all the presentations they have heard over the past two months.  Finance Director Sandy Pooler told the committee that pretty much everything was funded except he pushed off until next year $25,000 for Crocker Farm School playground repairs and $35,000 for North Amherst Center Studies and Improvements.

Both of which generated push back.

Select Board member Connie Kruger pointed out things are happening in North Amherst now and pushing that money back sends the wrong message.  School Committee Chair Katherine Appy suggested parents would be unhappy with the delay of the Crocker Farm playground upgrade, which is both a safety and aesthetic quality of life issue.

Mr. Pooler (metaphorically removing his Grinch hat) promised to rework the overall proposal one more time.

The $145,116 gap was filled by using unspent leftover money from previous capital appropriations


Anonymous said...

So how much CPA money can we spend on projects that would have had (eventually) to be funded out of other budgets?

I thought we were told that if we approved the increase in the surcharge, we would also receive an increase in the proportion that would be matched by the state.

26%??? That's all?

Larry Kelley said...

Yep. That's it. Don't believe everything you're told.

I also know more than a few taxpayers did not realize when they voted approval back in November that it was retroactive to the start of the current Fiscal Year (July 1st).

So we were double billed the next quarter to pick up for July/Aug/Sept.

Anonymous said...

I wondered why that 4th quarter bill was so high but just didn't have the energy to argue.

Someone should make a CPA request for public beautification of town meeting members. There could be deodorant, shaves, haircuts, makeup, and clothes (preferably in colors other than gray) distributed prior to each meeting. And for reading lessons for those who don't seem to know how to read the warrant and ask stupid-ass questions that everyone in the room already knows the answer to but are too goddam polite to say so. And that goes for appearances too.


Larry Kelley said...

They may be investing $20-$25K in an electronic voting system for Town Meeting.

That should be interesting considering the number of Luddites.

Anonymous said...

I do the best I can while I'm there.

I try to understand the issues before I vote, but, hey, I'm not good-looking.

Now, Anon 5:42 pm, let's not make Town Meeting membership harder than it already is. We need more Town Meeting candidates, not less. Don't make it worse, by bringing personal appearance into it.

It was 31 hours last year between spring and fall sessions, and I didn't think that was too much. But a lot of people think they don't have time, and, if they continue to stay away, we're screwed.

Rich Morse
Precinct 7 Town Meeting

dr. Ed said...

Ultimate irony is that the folks paying half of this -- the UM students through their rent -- get absolutely nothing out of it.

At least the JCA's restoration of the old 2nd Congo steeple would preserve a historic landmark.

Anonymous said...

Too bad about the preschool playground at Crocker Farm. It could use some work and decent accessible equipment; not sure why this was put off. Did I understand you correctly Larry that it might be revisited this year? Thanks for the information!

Larry Kelley said...

Yes, Finance Director Sandy Pooler seemed to take the concerns expressed by the JCPC to heart (about not wanting the playground equipment delayed) and said he would come back with his final recommendations at the March 19 meeting.

Anonymous said...

How about they use some of that CPA tax.....I mean surcharge to renovate the Central Fire Station.

Larry Kelley said...

The building is historic.