Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Update on Highway - Building & Grrounds

After some looking and checking, the figures for the director salary for highway and building & Grounds has been adjusted.

Previously, the budget book had Director - highway @ 60% allocation: $43,206.00
Previously, the budget book had Director - building/grounds @40% allocation: $43,206.00

Numbers did not really add up, so at the meeting last night, it was asked and the correction had been made to now read as follows:

Director - highway: 60% allocation -                  $43,206.00
Director - Building / Grounds: 40% allocation -    $28,804.00

Total . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $72,010.00

 Also, the Town Administrator was asked what is the benefit cost to each covered employee and the answer given - around $27,500.00, so that is the cost in addition to any rate of pay and any other items contained in a contract., such as the dispatch union contract, which contains a $350.00 per fiscal year clothing allowance for all full-time bargaining unit members.

posted by Jeff Bennett
Holly Young wins selectmen seat in Athol on Monday, April 3, 2017. Is that why she was absent from selectmen meeting and the office that day. Will that new duty interfere with her duties here in Templeton? Will any selectmen business for Athol be done while on Templeton time? I think legitimate concerns and questions.

Posted by Jeff Bennett
It has been stated on at least one occasion that the audits have been completed or at least the "grunt work" and sometime this month there should be a public meeting for the presentation of the management letter and accompanying documents.

At the conclusion of each audit, a management letter may be issued by the independent auditor.

Management letter is not required if there are no findings that are considered significant.

The management letter does not provide an opinion but instead deals with the auditors evaluation of the Town's internal control over financial reporting.

So, at last night's meeting/workshop (so called) the Town accountant stated that there was still some work to be done with regards to accounts receivables and other items for some years. My thought is how can a good audit be completed if not all the records are up to date, complete and correct?

Perhaps a question for the auditors.

Also brought out was that there are shortfalls in FY 2013, 2014 and 2015. and the shortfall for 2013 is not in the million dollar range nor the 800 thousand dollar range, but we will see ( I hope) and somewhere in there, there is surplus of funds, how much is it, do not know yet.

Another item asked about was the collection rate, as in the percentage of taxes actually collected versus what could be collected. Town Administrator did not wish to say, so I surmise it is less than what is stated in the revenue section for the FY2018 revenue and expense plan.

That number would be very helpful to all, as last year a value of $80 thousand dollars was used in the revenue section available for spending and yet it turned out to be $69 thousand dollars. Same with motor vehicle excise tax, Town meeting time, the figure was one million, one hundred ten thousand dollars available to cover expenses, Yet in the report to the DOR (tax recap sheet) a figure of one million was used. Which is why the Advisory Committee has concerns about the revenue numbers being used. It does not mean they are right or wrong, it just means the committee feels a more conservative approach should be used, a difference of opinion and hopefully, that will be reported to Town meeting so the people can decide.

You can find "examining your audited financial statements on the Massachusetts Municipal Association web page in the open section. It was put together and presented by James E. Powers, CPA.

posted by Jeff Bennett

Advisory asked and the DOR answered - no big surprise.

Advisory voted to have one member contact the DOR concerning school spending and here it is.

Dear Ms. Colleary,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Templeton Advisory Committee regarding school funding and Templeton's local appropriation for education. Templeton is part of the Narragansett Regional School District (NRSD) and Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical High School (Monty Tech). 
Attached you find the figures for the NRSD. For many years, the Town of Templeton has been accused of not contributing enough money to NRSD. Over and above the minimum contribution  for FY 18, Templeton is being asked for an additional $1,001,343 as an "Additional appropriation".  
Our request to you is to ask for an independent review of Templeton's contribution to both NRSD and Monty Tech to determine the exact amount of money Templeton is obligated to pay both educational institutions while meeting all requirements of law.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Julie Farrell
Advisory committee, member

Ms. Farrell,
Please be advised that the Department of Revenue does not have statutory authority to determine the town’s compliance with the state’s school financing laws. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is the proper venue to resolve that matter.

Kathleen Colleary, Chief
Bureau of Municipal Finance Law
Division of Local Services
Department of Revenue

posted by Jeff Bennett
The school budget - get over it and All contracts impact the budget!

Whether Templeton is actually meeting or exceeding minimum contribution or not, the deck is stacked against cities and towns. Templeton saw first hand how that works in 2013, except that it did not go all the way. However, if you look at other area towns where it did go all the way, schools did not always get everything they wanted money wise and neither did the towns. Schools are also not under prop 2 1/2. The department of revenue will not look at school funding items, they defer to the DESE or department of elementary and secondary education. Again, the school district was caught in a lie and even the superintendent admitted to it, but in the end, the district got the number they asked for. Until some laws are changed and all federal and state mandates are funded by the mandating authority, not much is going to change. It is just reality.

Last night, the Police Chief was asked about what could be cut in one section of his budget, he stated all of the items and hence the dollars was driven by contract, as in the selectmen were given items that someone wanted, they agreed to them and signed a document promising to pay for them. When you take all the contracts and add up all of the dollars required to pay for those contracts, what is left has to cover all other expenses.

We will see what the district has to say, if anything, concerning Templeton meeting it's minimum contribution to the district.  Everyone is trying to grab as much as they can without worrying about the next guy, including the taxpayer. perhaps the selectmen should be asked why the school district is in the driver's seat for a new elementary school rather than the selectmen, and did that have anything to do with the overspending of funds, as in spending money you do not have. So when the school district budget is presented to town meeting, it can be voted up or down and if it is down, the town will go through what it did back in 2013. The question is, will the town be willing to do that again?

posted by Jeff Bennett