Sunday, July 9, 2017

from the Treasurer for fiscal 2015/ town employee salaries-page 1

Gross Pay
Gross Pay
Robert Adams
Lawrence Bankowski
$     996.81
Todd Alden
John Bartlet
Jeffrey Aldrich
John Bartlus
Mark Anderson
Jennifer Belliveau
Joseph Arsenault
Michael Bennett
Patricia Arsenault
Thomas Berry
Eric Baker
Alec Bessonnette
Dana Blais
Richard Blodgett
Margo Bombard
Thomas Bosworth
Nicole Boucher
Natasha Bourque
George Bowen
Lawrence Brandt
Marcia Breen
Randy Brown
William Buckler
Michael Caisse
Richard Caisse
Scot Caisse
Timothy Caisse
Steve CampoBasso
John Caplis
Steven Castle
Joseph Catalano
Bennett Chadbourne
Francis Chase
Warren Chaney
Russell Clark
James Cornwell
George Couillard
Ryan Courtemanche
Mary Curtis
Richard Curtis
Mark Danielson
Ronald Daven
Question, did the 19 thousand dollar purchase, through Brookside Sales inc., in Phillipston, go through the Capital Planning Committee and process as outlined in the Town's by-laws? I believe it went through the board of selectmen. It was over ten thousand dollars and I hope it is expected to last more than five years, so Anon, perhaps another question you can ask the selectmen. Of course, if you ask these questions, we may find out who you are, so is it heads or tails?

posted by Jeff Bennett
my personal thought and opinion!
Anonymous2:40 PM
So what happens if we cut the 100k from ems? Do we lose our els service? I believe once it's lost its gone forever right? What happens if we cover it with the money that's supposed to cover it?

It sounds like the school. If we back out we need to cover 1.4 million and repair the schools or lose our school funding. The issues are apparent Jeff. the choices are just as clear but somehow we find issues and stop working towards a solution. That's the way of the Selectmen from 2011. Wasn't that you jeff?

Speaking of schools, there was an article concerning Hank Mason and his tenure on the school committee, in that article was something about a change to the regionalization agreement back in the 90's with regards to elementary schools. Which I beleive and I will have to double check this as well, that the change means the school district could walk away from the Phillipston memorial school and move those kids into the new elementary school and if that is the case, Phillipston gets access to a new school without spending a dime. Riding Templeton like a rented mule again! Something to look at.

Anon, you sound alot like dave smart, (in my opinion) but no matter, if you check, I believe the last tax override, as in permanent, forever, was passed in the fall of 2013, when I served on the board of selectmen. Personally, I thought it should be one million as I stated in a letter in the Gardner News. My thought was overridden by the rest of the selectmen. We did manage to get an override passed with some or most of it going towards the school assessment and the rest going to restore of non union town employees. The issue then was as it is now, shortage of revenue and or to high of expenses. Yes, I also believe if you check, if the Town does not meet the license requirements for ALS, the town looses it all, I would have to double check that to be sure. If you watched, I did keep trying to find ways to cut down on town expense by suggesting things like close one fire station. (Phillipston, Gardner, Westminster, Winchendon all have only one station) moving dispatch out of Templeton and regionalize with other communities to cut down on Templeton expense. Phillipston gets the same dispatch service as Templeton, yet Templeton pays at least 340 thousand a year for that service, last I knew, Phillipston was paying Templeton about $57,000.00 per year for the same service. No labor contracts, no retirement, no health insurance costs, no building costs, no payroll, vacation, sick time or overtime costs. No debt exclusion, as in extra taxes for the building either. If it works for Philipston and is so good for them, why would it not be good for Templeton? Never got a good answer to that question, other than the supposed "it only costs Templeton $37,000.00 a year for dispatch service." That came from the then chief of police and selectmen Haley Brooks used that topic for election, as in signs with "save dispatch". So, you can continue, but there really is not much of a case to blame me anymore, have not been on the select board since March of 2014 and what has improved financially for Templeton? Same old same old with the same old line, all is fine and we are moving forward. More like in circles in my opinion. 

Ask the selectmen why they have ignored the advice of Town counsel concerning budget preparation and presentation. Why have the selectmen failed to act on that so there is no conflict in MA general law, town by-laws etc. There is an opinion, a thought of how to fix that and is has been sitting with the selectmen for at least a year with little to no mention. Perhaps a petition by the citizenry to address it is the answer, which would probably lead to alot of time and a messy fight on town floor, which is what Town counsel opined could be avoided, but to no avail so far. Again, another question that you could take to the selectmen. I will look for my copy and try to give you the dates and the exact wording, I did a blog concerning it a while back. So, again, go ask the selectmen! Oh, the deflection is noted but not working!

posted by Jeff Bennett

These are my thoughts and opinions, still allowed by the constitution I believe. 
Anonymous12:20 PM
Wasn't it something about an out of balance budget for 100k to be corrected at the fall town meeting. Maybe the financial wizards committee can explain it or perhaps they can just tell you there is a problem without looking at the evidence, solution, or anything other the stocking their fingers in their ears crying wolf for attention. It's no wonder the Board of Selectmen don't give you the things you want.. you guys find the problem and ignore the fix just like that guy said about the fire bombing bobby. I read the court documents and it's clear Bob was appointed of arson of his house and he sued his insurance company after he provided false information to commit fraud. Surely the man didn't do anything wrong when he went to a max prison for 3 years after a trial by jury.. give me a break. Fits right into the advisory committee as a spin doctor. Lying, troubling making, town fools

Actually anon, if you took the time to look and or attend, you would know the answer; the selectmen wanted town meeting to approve a transfer from the ambulance receipts account to the fire/EMS department, there has to be an influx of money to pay the costs of two full time fire/EMS workers so as to keep the ALS ambulance license in Templeton. The selectmen were told by the DOR they could only ask for a transfer of funds they actually have. The solution to this was/is either cut 100 thousand from the fire/EMS budget, or cut 100 thousand from the general fund budget, or do what is proposed, fix the 100 thousand dollar shortfall with a transfer (s) in the fall or cut the 100 thousand out.

Pointing out problems is far better than what the selectmen have done for a number of years; every thing is fine and we have a competent financial team in place, well, except for the treasurer/collector. You can read about that in the management letter from the audits. So, to recap, selectmen were going to ask town meeting to transfer funds they (the town) did not have to pay for two full time employees and the DOR told them they could not do it, you can only transfer money that you actually have. Perhaps a reconsideration of who the fools are, who the trouble makers are, since there are those who wish to meet in public and tell the town all is fine and then there are those who ask questions and point out issues, which is usually how problems get solved. They are pointed out or noted and questioned, then discussion on how to fix them and how to avoid repeating them. So the selectmen plan is to "fix" the 100 thousand dollar shortfall in the fall at a special town meeting, if the money is there. Remember, these same selectmen have said the money was there before, except it wasn't, which is why questions always need to be asked and explanations are required, in my opinion, anyways.

Except, it does not appear you are looking for explanations, just causing trouble! That is my thought and opinion.

posted by Jeff Bennett
To Kimber;

I would think a place to go to "lecture" people on behavior would be a selectmen meeting, with the newest member of the BOS tweeting "I am honored to be called Joseph Stalin by my favorite committee of sleuths, felons, crybabies and nutcases." First, ask Mr. Fortes  what is your favorite committee, and who do you refer to in that tweet? Who are the slueths, felons, crybabies and nutcases?
Then, if you are able, check out the face book page of selectmen Brooks. She has a few and one she has called her personal page, but as she recently stated at a selectmen's meeting that when you are an elected or appointed official, when you speak, you are speaking on behalf of the Town, that is how people take that. I have paraphrased her exact words and would have to watch the meetings again to have exact wording but I am confident I am on the mark. Ask her why she has settings on that one face book page so certain people cannot read what she posts? If it is as she stated, when you are a town official, you speak on behalf of the town, what is she posting on that face book page that she does not want certain people to see. Could it be calling a president of the united states an idiot, a liar or an azzhole? (no, I am not claiming selectmen Brooks wrote that, I am merely posing a question on possible reasons to exclude some from reading face book postings) I mean what can one post on face book that you want certain people not to see? My face book page is wide open, anyone can read it all, nothing to hide.

As for financial information, you may have to make public records requests. This Sunday morning, I cannot find the budget document for fiscal 2018 on the Templeton town website. You can see where some of your money is spent by looking under the board of selectmen, contracts and agreements.

I will also post some links here for your viewing pleasure on town finance, starting with the report of the Advisory Committee as submitted for the 2016 Templeton annual report.

If you can attend, please come to an Advisory Committee meeting, you may find them boring because we do not waste valuable time on what is this blog or that one or what is on face book or twitter. Advisory does not waste time on those things. That is unless they come to the Committee by way of an open meeting law complaint and even then, most likely, only the actual complaint will be dealt with and no time crying about what is on a blog, face book or twitter concerning any member or even the committee itself. That has been my experience for almost two years on Advisory. The drama is for the selectmen.

posted by Jeff Bennett

The Honorable Jay R. Kaufman, House Chair
The Honorable Michael D. Brady, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Revenue
State House, Boston

Dear Chairman Kaufman, Chairman Brady, and Distinguished Committee Members,

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association appreciates the opportunity to offer testimony in support of H. 1603, filed by Rep. Smitty Pignatelli and others that would authorize cities and towns to adopt a local motor fuels (gasoline and diesel fuel) excise of up to 5 cents per gallon that would be dedicated to local transportation and storm water purposes. Adoption would be by the local legislative body. This is a priority bill for the MMA.

With the property tax and other local revenues strictly limited by state law, municipal officials are seeking alternative ways to help pay for local road and bridge projects and public transit services, and begin to cover the cost of storm water management.

A 2016 analysis by the MMA found that cities and town need to spend more than $630 million annually to maintain local roads and bridges in a state of good repair. With Chapter 90 local road funding currently at $200 million, a local option motor fuels excise would help close the state of good repair funding gap. Well-maintained roads and bridges support local economies and economic development plans, and help protect the safety of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

Due to ongoing litigation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has postponed the effective date of the MS4 storm water permit by one year.

The EPA agreed to a request that was filed jointly by the Massachusetts Coalition for Water Resources Stewardship, the town of Franklin and the city of Lowell asking EPA Region 1 to delay the permit for one year pending judicial review.

In its notice, the EPA wrote that it would like to explore the use of alternative dispute resolution to engage with petitioners, and that the postponement will give the EPA time to determine if any changes to the permit for small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems are appropriate.

The MS4 permit, which will regulate storm water in more than 250 municipalities in Massachusetts, was scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2017, with the first action item for municipalities to comply due in September. The stay delays permit implementation until July 1, 2018, and postpones the due date for communities to file their Notice of Intent as well.

After more than a month of negotiations, the Legislature’s budget conference committee filed a $40.2 billion fiscal 2018 state budget plan this morning that was quickly enacted by the House and Senate hours later.
The budget is based on a $700 million reduction in expected tax revenues for next year. Weak tax collections in the just-ended fiscal year created a $440 million hole in the fiscal 2017 budget and forced lawmakers to make a downward adjustment in their fiscal 2018 forecast.
While the Legislature’s budget makes widespread reductions in many state budget accounts, it makes key investments in local aid, including full funding of the $39.9 million increase in unrestricted municipal aid, a $119 million increase in Chapter 70 education aid, and a $4 million increase in special education reimbursements. The remaining local accounts are generally level-funded.
“Representatives and senators are clearly protecting and prioritizing municipal and school aid,” said MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith. “In the context of a very tight budget year, this is a strong budget for cities and towns, and we deeply appreciate the support that legislators are giving to local aid and our communities.”
Gov. Charlie Baker now has 10 days to sign, veto or recommend changes to the appropriations and outside sections.

Unrestricted General Government Aid
The Legislature’s budget provides $1.061 billion for UGGA, a $39.9 million increase over current funding – the same increase proposed by Gov. Baker and approved by the House and Senate in the spring. Almost all of UGGA funding comes from $985 million in expected Lottery proceeds and $65 million from the Plainridge gaming facility. (can you say counting chickens before eggs hatch)

posted by Jeff Bennett

Massachusetts General Law, chapter 39:

Section 16: Appropriation, advisory or finance committees; appointment; tenure; powers and duties

Section 16. Every town whose valuation for the purpose of apportioning the state tax exceeds one million dollars shall, and any other town may, by by-law provide for the election or the appointment and duties of appropriation, advisory or finance committees, who shall consider any or all municipal questions for the purpose of making reports or recommendations to the town; and such by-laws may provide that committees so appointed or elected may continue in office for terms not exceeding three years from the date of appointment or election.
In every town having a committee appointed under authority of this section, such committee, or the selectmen if authorized by a by-law of the town, and, in any town not having such a committee, the selectmen, shall submit a budget at the annual town meeting.

Policies and procedures of the Board of Selectmen do not come before a Warrant, Finance or Advisory Committee unless they will appear on a Town Meeting Warrant. Advisory Committee makes non binding recommendations to Town Meeting. 

posted by Jeff Bennett
Massachusetts General Law, chapter 44. (no more checks and balances)

Section 31D: Snow and ice removal; emergency expenditures; reporting requirements

[ First paragraph effective until November 7, 2016. For text effective November 7, 2016, see below.]
  Section 31D. Any city or town may incur liability and make expenditures in any fiscal year in excess of available appropriations for snow and ice removal, provided that such expenditures are approved by the town manager and the finance or advisory committee in a town having a town manager, by the selectmen and the finance or advisory committee in any other town, by the city manager and the city council in a city having a city manager or by the mayor and city council in any other city; provided, however, that the appropriation for such purposes in said fiscal year equaled or exceeded the appropriation for said purposes in the prior fiscal year. Expenditures made under authority of this section shall be certified to the board of assessors and included in the next annual tax rate.
[ First paragraph as amended by 2016, 218, Sec. 74 effective November 7, 2016. For text effective until November 7, 2016, see above.]
  Any city or town may incur liability and make expenditures in any fiscal year in excess of available appropriations for snow and ice removal, provided that such expenditures are approved by chief administrative officer; provided, however, that the appropriation for such purposes in said fiscal year equaled or exceeded the appropriation for said purposes in the prior fiscal year. Expenditures made under authority of this section shall be certified to the board of assessors and included in the next annual tax rate.
  Every city or town shall annually, not later than September fifteenth, report to the division of local services of the department of revenue the total amounts appropriated and expended, including any funding or reimbursements received from the commonwealth, for snow and ice removal in the fiscal year ending on the preceding June thirtieth.

Note that in the amended version, there is no longer any checks and balances, one person decision that affects town finance. In the case of Templeton, $19,000.00 was spent at Templeton's  favorite dealer, Brookside Equipment Sales in Phillipston, MA. (that is my opinion) According to snow & Ice spending records. I believe it was spent on a truck to be used all year long.

posted by Jeff Bennett
Transfers to pay the snow & Ice spending deficit, transfer from the town vehicle fuel expense fund to help cover the snow & Ice fund, which has in it "charges" for fuel. and the wagon goes round and round. Placed in the fiscal 2018 snow & Ice spending plan, there is a dollar figure of $36,689.00 for fuel. This is where it gets diluted; a truck is filled up during a storm, fuel is charged to snow & Ice, but the storm ends an hour later and in a few hours it is all over. Fuel is now used for other purposes but charged to snow & Ice. Since fuel is fuel, why not appropriate X amount at Town Meeting for the year and stop some of the creative accounting and subtract one item that seems to add to the snow & Ice deficit that has to be dealt with eventually. Seems like a big circle to charge some town fuel to snow & Ice deficit and then turn around and transfer money from Town fuel fund to pay for fuel used in the winter time. This could most likely be accomplished by way of budget forecasting and using financial history to ask for a more realistic appropriation for fuel at town meeting.

Example: This fiscal year, 2017, shows fuel expense at $24,585.84 (from detailed general ledger sheet for snow & Ice spending). A budget versus actual document from the Templeton Town Accountant, dated 6/29/2017, shows a town meeting appropriation of $73,000.00 for town vehicle fuel, with a remaining balance of $20,687.03.

A transfer request from the selectmen's office shows a transfer from town vehicle fuel in the amount of $12,500.00 (this is available because of soft fuel prices - per town administrator)

Once again, there is a transfer from fire/EMS salaries fund to snow & Ice deficit (lets hope this time the money is actually there to transfer). What this shows, in my opinion, and you decide and better yet, attend a selectmen meeting and ask about this matter, is creative accounting and a failure to demonstrate or admit there is not enough revenue to cover the things selectmen propose spending money on. In fiscal 2016, there were about 60 or more financial transfers, which again, in my opinion, shows a lack of budget forecasting as well as failing to use financial history to set up a spending plan. So many transfers in fiscal 2016, 200 thousand dollar shortfall in fiscal 2017, at least 300 thousand dollar shortfall in fiscal 2018 that requires financial fix (es) and already acknowledgement of financial trouble coming for fiscal 2019, right around the corner. Do not forget about the 47 million dollar appropriation for the school nor the almost one million dollars for the police station.

Clearly, the financial creativity needs to be corrected by some sound financial planning, and with the so far unchanged attitude of the selectmen, that will not really include the Advisory Committee, in my opinion. There will probably be the continued charade of inclusion, but again, from what I have seen, it will be more of the same, window dressing and a show, my thought and opinion.

If you wish an example, watch for the release of the so called special financial report coming soon, so we are told, that will contain a report from the Advisory Committee. That report was left out of the fiscal year 2016 Annual Town report. Apparently edited by the selectmen's office, with one reason given that it was too long. It included an accounting of the Town's money and was completed and submitted per Massachusetts law and Town by-laws. This was done without input from the submitting committee, Advisory. The office of the Templeton selectmen, through their secretary and town administrator, unilaterally decided that you, the voter/taxpayer did not need to see this information. That is right up there with the absence of town employees salaries being left out of the Annual Town report. Again, the selectmen appear to think that you, the voter/taxpayer have no right to know what you pay your employees. A question for the selectmen is, why not? Was that a vote by the board of selectmen? If so, where are those minutes that I may compare to the video of that meeting?

posted by Jeff Bennett