Monday, May 28, 2018

House-Senate budget differences headed to conference committee

The House and Senate have each approved budget bills for next year, with some important differences in local government accounts and on policy issues that will have to be resolved by a six-member conference committee.
With state finances more stable this budget season than over the past two years, some of the concern about funding levels for state and local government programs has diminished a bit, and in some cases there is an opportunity for growth. Last year at this time, state collections were falling almost half a billion dollars behind the forecast. This year, collections through the end of April are about $800 million ahead of the target.
Policy differences in the House and Senate fiscal 2019 budget bills include some controversial issues that affect cities and towns, including Senate-approved updates to the Community Preservation Act fee schedule, a provision to establish a new car rental fee to help fund the municipal police training program, and a measure that would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. The House is acting on a police training program funding plan in separate legislation

Apparently, the state Senators think there should be no rule of law in Massachusetts. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Do Templeton selectmen read and understand what is put in front of them? Do they understand everything that is asked of them?

On page 73 of the spending plan binders, an explanation in detail, of what is planned for purchase of service; Town Clerk, for the fiscal year 2019. One item listed is General Code - Codification @ $3,998.00. There is a notation showing this is year 3 of a 3 year contract with a further annual $1,195.00 fee for FY 2020 and thereafter.

So why would the selectmen tell people at annual town meeting that only $100.00 to no more than $1,000.00 was spent on codification?

So, did the selectmen lie to the Annual Town Meeting or did they really not  know how much they agreed to spend on a contract they signed? It was nice of the Town Administrator to take the blame, but he did not sign the warrant for town meeting.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Okay, here is a math problem for you:

Templeton local required contribution . . . . . . . . . . . . $4,385,110.00
additional appropriation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1,272,179.00
Templeton transportation difference . . . . . . . . . . . . .  $   675,463.00
debt service . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $   417,911.00
Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $6,750,663.00

Now, from Templeton Town Meeting:
 warrant article # 33  NRHS district . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $6,332,752.00

to pay NRHS district for educating, transporting students and capital and debt expenses.

Is the debt expense included in the motion dollar figure presented by the selectmen?

I guess the answer will be, no problem, we will do it over in the fall.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Not so fast . . . . . it just may be a Grand Illusion!

Looking at the Town web site to look at recently posted Moderator Rules for the up coming Templeton Annual Town Meeting. The rules in part state that materials placed on the table have been pre approved.

It further states If you would like to make such materials available to Town Meeting members, please submit them to me for approval at least 48 hours before the start of Town Meeting.

It states you can drop off these material to the Templeton Police department.????

After reading an email from the moderator to a couple of people with the same reply which contains the following:

"I absolutely have the authority to determine what is or is not allowed at the town meeting. For example you or anyone else is not allowed to smoke or bring any alcohol or firearms to the town meeting. Town Meeting Time page 136."

So I contacted the Moderators Association and purchased a copy of Town Meeting Times for $25.00.
Came in the mail on Saturday and I quickly turned to page 136 to see what it says.

I found that chapter 9, with a subject of Debate, begins on page 134 and goes to page 138. On page 136, the only reference to any rule or power of the moderator I found was at the bottom of the page;

"Carlyle not withstanding, ("the substitution of tobacco smoke for parliamentary eloquence is by some held to be a great improvement"), with a footnote 9. it is improper (footnote 10) and in Massachusetts, illegal to smoke or carry intoxicating liquor in a town meeting (footnote 11)

Looking at the footnotes, #11 states Mass. Gen. Laws, c. 54, section 73. Note that this empowers the moderator to cause the offender to be removed, but not confined.

This seems to state that rather than having the authority to determine what is or is not allowed at Town Meeting, it simply gives the moderator the authority to have one removed from the meeting for violating the law or a rule.

There may be a copy of Town Meeting Times available for reading at a library. You can always buy a copy or perhaps the moderator will allow you to read his copy and read page 136 for yourself.

I will have my copy at Town Meeting.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

TO: Board of Selectmen
FROM: Carter Terenzini, Town Administrator
RE: Administrator’s Weekly Report
DATE: May 10, 2018
CC: All Departments ______________________________________________________________________________ ANNUAL TOWN MEETING, SATURDAY, MAY 19, 2018, 9:00 A.M. @ NRSD GYM

Important Notice to All Departments 
Job Openings: Seasonal Laborer (DPW) & Laborer/Truck Driver (DPW), 

Business Meeting or Workshop: The following is intended to supplement agenda items where a full memorandum may not have been required or updates are needed.

6. b. This is to recognize the very positive contribution to our organization of the four interns we have working with us this semester.

6. d. As you now know, the auditorium normally used for Town Meeting is not available to us. After lengthy discussions and on-site review, the recommendation is to move it to the Gymnasium of the High School. While it is in the same building complex it - unfortunately - has a separate street address (#464 versus the warned #462 Baldwinville). We are advised such a move requires a joint decision of the BoS and Town Moderator. This is to hear the formal recommendation of the Moderator and Clerk and hear the steps that will be taken to advise the public and ensure an orderly carrying out of the move.

6. e. This is to adopt a meeting calendar for FY 2019. It includes an expanded and pre-set number of meetings for the budget process. As discussed previously it is based upon the recommendation to move your meeting nights to Wednesday. This has several advantages. It avoids the need to reschedule around any of the Monday holiday conflicts. In fact, I am told that there are no holiday reschedules in this calendar. It means you are here on Wednesday nights to sign warrants avoiding the need for you to make extra trips and avoiding the likelihood we are lacking a needed signature as we face any timelines to release checks. Finally, by moving to a fiscal year calendar each board gets to set its own schedule at its annual organizational meeting.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018


On the $3.75 monthly customer charge, this increased from $3.00 to $3.75 on January 1, 2018.  The extra $0.75 per month per residential electric customer will cover the cost of our new AMI system over a 20-year depreciation schedule.  The customer charge covers the cost to read customer’s meter, produce an electric bill, mail the electric bill to the customer and process their electric payment 12 times per year.

The electrical work on Elm St going on is an aerial cable replacement of some wire put up in the early 1980s with gray covering.  Historically this gray-colored aerial cable has had problems with flashovers and has led to power outages.  The 1,200’ of gray cable left on Elm St will be the last of it in town.  A few years ago we replaced about 10,000’ of the same type of cable on Patriots Rd from JBM down to Lawrence Place over a 3-year period.  The new aerial cables are all colored black.

John M Driscoll
General Manager

Templeton Municipal Light & Water Plant
86 Bridge Street, P.O. Box 20
Baldwinville, MA 01436
Phone   (978) 939-5323 x11
Fax       (978) 939-4309

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Do you even listen to answers given to you by the person you ask ? That was asked and answered on TCTV by the Town Administor May 2 18 - he came in - sat down and listened to your committees redundant questions & pointless comments. 

I listen to the answers given by many people. If you think the questions are redundant or pointless, perhaps come to Advisory Committee meeting and explain yourself. Of course, it is hard to stay anonymous if you come and introduce yourself. 

I recall listening to people tell the select board that an article for Town Meeting had to be worded this way. So the article was presented that way and then behold, a few years later, the article had to be redone because it was done done correctly the first time. Perhaps more questions before things move forward and there would be fewer errors.

Take the question concerning the E911 grant (the fund that the audit report states is still being accounted for improperly. $106,000.00 in funds had to be re-classed from the general fund to the E911 S+I grant fund.

Perhaps more redundant questions and that situation could have been avoided. Again, if you are comfortable with changing things that may have already been addressed in a report that you paid around $10,000.00 for. Lastly, the Town was told by way of the Town Accountant that after the audits for FY 2013 through FY 2016, we now have good numbers. However, since that time, this committee that you feel asks redundant and pointless questions/comments, have found a number of errors. Through our redundant process, the Advisory Committee has gotten some explanations for these errors. Perhaps you are someone who does not care about those things, some people do care. 

Lastly, the question concerning E 911 grant accounting; a question was asked about the posted dollar figures in the monthly expenditure reports; 
March 22, 2018 shows an allocated balance of $157,606.04 with expenditure of $62,466.44 with an ending balance of $95,139.60.

April 23, 2018, expenditure report E 911 grant shows allocation of $197,874.96 with expended $62,466.44 with an ending balance of $135,408.52.

Answer provided:    Beginning fiscal year balance of $  78,270.58
                                revenue in FY 2018                     $119,604.38
                                expended in FY 2018                  $  62,466.44
                                Available balance                        $135,408.52 

No explanation concerning how the $157,606.04 came to be nor how it went from that to $197,874.96 on the report of April 23, 2018.   So the question will be asked again when an answer is hopefully obtained that explains that. 

There will be some openings on the Advisory Committee at the end of the up coming Annual Town Meeting.
Also, perhaps an interested party missed a board of selectmen meeting but watched the Advisory Committee meeting. Even the Town Administrator admitted he missed something when he commented about the FY 2019 spending plan book having been out there for 10 weeks. His answer was the same but with out the original clarification that was stated would happen. Better to ask the same question a few times in an attempt to get it right the first time rather than have to do it three times. You may not agree with that, oh well.
I went to Town Hall today and visited the Town Clerk's office. I asked if there were readily available Town Meeting records for 1951. There are, in old large books. There are also annual Town reports. The book I looked through went from 1940 something up to the 1960's. I found the Town Meeting warrant where many of the Town's by-laws came to be. It was voted as the Collector of taxes shall collect, under the title of Town Collector, all accounts due the Town, except interest on investments on trust funds. This means that not only sewer receipts, but light & water receipts should be collected in Town Hall by the Town Collector. (as recommended in the DOR financial review of the Town of Templeton.

I feel any confusion could be cleared up by referring to the tax collector as the Town Collector from here on out. Just as the Advisory Committee some how morphed into the Advisory Board, even though the Massachusetts General Law requiring it's creation refers to it as a committee and even the Templeton by-laws refer to it as the Advisory Committee. To this day, even a member of the Advisory Committee still calls it the Advisory Board.

Under Article V - financial affairs, section 5, refers to the Town Coordinator can sell obsolete town equipment to the highest bidder (s) with the approval of the board of selectmen.

With so many improper and conflicting by-laws, and with the codification book (s) and a CD/DVD in Town Hall, why are the selectmen so intent on messing with by-laws concerning Advisory Committee before going through the codification report which you paid around 10 thousand dollars for?

I hope the same number of people who showed up at the polls show up for Town Meeting.

Looking over the unofficial vote totals for the election in Templeton, there seems to be a good deal of voter apathy. Look at the blanks totals for all of the positions and questions. Additionally, there were three open positions with no candidates who took out papers for Cemetery, Board of Health and Housing Authority. One thing is for sure, Templeton is no longer the community with the low tax rate. I will be looking to the select board to inspire people to run and become involved. I think there will be a number of positions open on Advisory Committee this year.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Contrary to what the Town Administrator states in his weekly update of May 3, 2018, FY 2017 Annul Town Reports are being handed out at the election place, as usual.

Hope this clears up any confusion.
The largest expense Templeton taxpayers are facing - a 47 million dollar project called the Templeton elementary school.
So why does someone volunteer for a committee involving that project, but fails to show for even one meeting?
Ask current selectman Richards - it is time for a change.

Please elect Jeff Bennett for selectman
Jeff Bennett, no family working for the Town, no conflicts of interest. (No, I am not related to the Police Chief, Mike Bennett)
So I will never have to step away from the table for any votes. And I show up for meetings.
Thank You to the 13 people who took campaign signs, they are collectibles!
Please VOTE on Monday, May 7, 2018 

between 11:00 A.M. and 7:00 P.M. at NRHS middle school gym.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Policies, policies and policies:

Under M.G.L. c. 44, §33B, a board of selectmen (with the finance committee’s agreement) or a city council may approve the transfer of appropriations between line items during the last two months of the fiscal year or the first 15 days of the ensuing fiscal year, provided that the appropriations are not taken from the school department or municipal light plant.

So, reading this, before the finance (Advisory) Committee may consider an end of year financial transfer, the board of selectmen must vote to do so and sign off on the paper work. The law does not indicate substituting say a Town Administrator for the selectmen.
Jeff Bennett, no family working for the Town, no conflicts of interest. (No, I am not related to the Police Chief, Mike Bennett)
So I will never have to step away from the table for any votes. And I show up for meetings.
Thank You to the 13 people who took campaign signs, they are collectibles!

Please VOTE on Monday, May 7, 2018 between 11:00 A.M. and 7:00 P.M. at NRHS middle school gym.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Town Meeting Warrant; If you look over the warrant for the May 19, 2018 Templeton Town Meeting, you will find several articles involving Town By-laws. On May 2, 2018, at Advisory Committee meeting, the town administrator stated the codification study of Templeton by-laws are in, he has a book but he stated he has not reviewed it as of yet. There is also a CD/DVD in with the report as well. Apparently, this process has been complete for some time. So, why propose by-law changes now before reading a taxpayer paid for report? Why pay for something if you are not going to use it or ignore it and make changes that may have already been made by the company you spent money on? Makes me wonder about the competency of the entire board of selectmen. Unless the T/A is keeping this from selectmen or the selectmen are asleep at the wheel, so to speak, why would they vote those articles in? The T/A stated he planned to address this at a planned fall special Town Meeting. So, my question is, why not wait until the fall to propose the by-law changes, if needed?

VOTE Jeff Bennett for Selectman
Recently, a  source tells me long time Templeton employee Carol Lee Eaton has been given an option; resign or be fired. There may have been a mistake made by her. Considering the number of mistakes, some continue still, by the Town Accountant and current Town Treasurer/Collector, why does this employee receive this treatment?
If you read the FY 2017 audit report, you will find on page 10 that the Town continues to improperly account for the E911 grant funds. Whose responsibility is it to track Town funds, to check Town expenses and record them as legal, charged to the correct fund and ensure there is enough money in each fund to cover charges? Why the Town Accountant. Why do the managers of Templeton (selectmen) continue to overlook this employee while they seem to hold all others to a different standard? Perhaps less time spent meddling in politics and more time spent on the job for which you are paid to do.
There is much talk of low attendance at Town Meeting, hard to get volunteers for committees and even candidates to run for office. Perhaps part of the problem is a failure of management to treat all the same and to put things forward in a truly open and honest fashion. Perhaps what is needed is a selectman who will speak to this and who will point out such things as expenditure reports continually showing mistakes. Enough with the "keying errors."

It is truly time for a change, please VOTE Jeff Bennett for Selectmen
If you are paying attention, the FY 2017 Annual Town Report is now posted on Town web site. The following comes from the selectmen portion of the report:
Future Aspirations
As Templeton continues to progress towards financial stability the Board plans to change focus
from financial correction to financial efficiency & operational standardization. We intend to
explore both of these routes equally in order to promote a healthy work space and cost effective
savings for the tax payers. We are hoping to increase communication with surrounding towns to
discuss openly points of possible synergies and methods of strategies. Encouraging department
heads to reach out to other department heads from neighboring communities for ideas and
promoting training of our current staff to allow them to think about how their job can be done
more effectively while maintaining extraordinary service.
On page 78 of that report is an item from the special Town Meeting of October 20, 2016. It was about FY 2017 budget supplement.
On a motion duly made and seconded the town voted to amend the 2017 annual town
budget as voted in Article 4 at the annual town meeting to add the sum of Eighty-Seven
Thousand Five Hundred One Dollars and No Cents ($87,501) to the long term debt
service line of that budget (Account No. 100-710-700-59-5910-000), and further to
transfer said sum from the stabilization fund to pay for the foregoing
Defeated/October 20th @ 7:56 by hand count requested by 7 or more voters.
Prior to the vote, Advisory Committee member Jeff Bennett pointed out that according to the current balance number given to the Advisory Committee before the meeting, that $87K represented about half of the stabilization fund and that it did not seem prudent to make that move. Thank fully it did not happen, as Advisory found out later, the actual balance of the stabilization fund at the time of the meeting was around $90,000.00. After that vote and meeting, selectmen began a verbal assault on Advisory Committee, even going so far as to profess that people needed to get the permission of the Moderator regarding what material people can bring into Town Meeting with them. No, the moderator is not the paper police. If you check, Julie Richard was a member of the select board at that time and I was a member of the Advisory Committee. Now, I would like to represent you on the Board of Selectmen, where I will speak up for you.
It is time for a change, I ask that you VOTE Jeff Bennett for selectmen. Thank You.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Interesting item from last Advisory Committee meeting; The Town Administrator presented the committee with an end of year financial transfer request. Transfer from Insurance and Benefits fund to Veterans Fund. Amount of transfer request is $7,000.00. The amount shown to still be in the Veterans fund as of April 27, 2018 is $5,365.00. The amount shown to be in the Insurance & Benefits Fund as of April 27, 2018 is $519,538.00.
From the 3rd quarter financial report from Town Accountant dated April 23, 2018, Insurance & Benefits shows $745,860.27
A month earlier, expenditure report dated March 22, 2018 shows Insurance & Benefits as $747,776.49
Will be interesting to see what the end of year balance is for Insurance & Benefits, as in what is left over, if any.
I also have to question why a Town with a general fund spending plan of over 8 million dollars is going to use a meals tax, which does not even exist yet, as a basis to support 3 year leases on a car and a truck (police cruiser and highway one tone truck) while letting about $196,000.00 roll forward, untouched. I have to question why create 2 new 3 year bills when you do not have to. Spend the money you have and put the leftover into capital stabilization fund.
The warrant article states a three year lease for both vehicles at $42,000.00 per year with a limit of $126,000.00. If you just use the $126,000.00 as the case price for both items, there would still be $70,000 to put into capital stabilization without creating new bills that now have to be funded with future unknown money. What if the meals tax does not pass? Again,my view is it is a foolish move to let that $196 thousand roll on and bet on an unknown.

It is Time for a change - VOTE Jeff Bennett for Selectmen
SUMMARY:  Overlay and Overlay surplus

These guidelines explain recent amendments made by the Municipal Modernization Act that impact the Allowance for Abatements and Exemptions (overlay). St. 2016, c. 218, §§ 131, 133 and 152. They explain the statutory standard for maintaining an adequate overlay and the actions the Commissioner of Revenue (Commissioner) may take when approving a tax rate or determining available funds (free cash) to ensure compliance with that standard. Overlay is an account to fund anticipated abatements and exemptions of committed real and personal property taxes. The overlay amount is determined by the board of assessors (assessors) and may be raised in the tax rate without appropriation. Excess overlay is determined, certified and transferred by vote of the assessors to a Fund Balance Reserved for Overlay Released by the Assessors for Expenditures (overlay surplus). Overlay surplus may then be appropriated by the legislative body for any lawful purpose until the end of the fiscal year, i.e., June 30. Overlay surplus not appropriated by year-end is closed to the general fund undesignated fund balance. G.L. c. 59, §§ 23 and 25.

This is posted so as to try and inform people of what the item is and how it is used. If you hear or see overlay surplus at Town Meeting, now you will hopefully have an idea of what it is and how or why it comes to be.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

In case you are paying attention:

If you look on the Templeton Town web site under departments and click Town Administrator, then click on the FY2019 Town Meeting Warrant, look at article 21; fiscal year 2019 General Fund operating budget (OPEX) and you will see a dollar figure of $8,220,298.00.

If you stay at the same place and look through the budget book presentation, sections 1-3, move down until you come to the summary - General Fund Operating budget and look down at the total: $8,315,481.00 is what you will see.

In the hard copy (paper) book that was handed out to selectmen and Advisory Committee members, we go to the same page, General Fund Operating Budget and we see a total of $8,220,231.00.
That was an "update"passed on to Advisory on April 9, 2018. So, which one is correct? Which one did the select board vote on? Do they know?

What is voted on at Town Meeting will be, but why don't all the dollar figures match?
How is putting conflicting information on the Town's website for taxpayers helping anyone out?