Vol. IV No. 6 3/15/2023
Notes from the Finance Committee (FC), March 2, Hybrid meeting
- Jay Bikofsky, Chair
- Steve Shatz
- Jim Balfanz
- Pam Boudreau
- Diane Reuss
- Ed Lane
- Jorja Marsden
- Bill Vogt
- Jamie Minacci, (SB)
- Patrick White, (SB)
- Michael Canales, Town Administrator
- Minutes voted to accept, however,
- Chair wanted to append bios of all the FC members — perhaps one sentence each with financial background.
- Vogt suggested one sentence to added to minutes stating the Moderator appointed FC members because of our financial background. That passed.
- Chair explained would discuss Town budget absent school budget being prepared by Berkshire Hills Regional School District (BHRSD) for Great Barrington, Stockbridge and W. Stockbridge. Chair summarized BHRSD preliminary figures as follows:
- Total enrollment 1205 students.
- Total budget-- capital and operational — is approximately $35,238.733.
- Of which Stockbridge's share was 2.38% and is now 3.94% UP 1.56% based on property values and general affluence.
- Operational: Stockbridge's share in dollars is approximately $3,733,143.
- Capital expenditures — Stockbridge share approximately $78,450.
- As the discussion continued, some confusion about dollar amounts.
- Canales presented overview of Town budget without school budget. Proposed budget is up only 2.1%. Shatz suggested that since there was so little change that FC not review the budget line by line.
- Canales moved to employee salaries and suggested a 2.5% increase in salaries.
- Vogt said that seemed low in light of inflation.
- Bikofsky said important that we retain our staff — "good team".
- White said if raise pay beyond 2.5% that raises baseline and each year that goes up. Over ten years for example could be an additional $350,000. Rather than doing that, give bonuses this year to offset inflation.
- Vogt and Balfanz seemed to support idea of bonuses and baseline remaining the same., but Shatz cut off discussion objecting to the process and asking who was supposed to be advising whom?
- Canales shifted to capital expenses. Vogt asked how much would it cost to put sewer all around lake? Canales said millions and they were studying issue.
- Shatz complained there was too much money in free cash and the stabilization fund. He remembered FC voted that it should be 10% and now it is 37%. Bikofsky said it was due to COVID. Canales said Curtisville Bridge and dredging would "eat up" overage.
- Canales continued Town has many capital projects in the works and wants to wait until some or all are done before adding new ones.
- Canales was concerned that an annual [loan] payment that was usually $100,000 will be $200,000 this year.
- White suggested using $100,000 of the $150,000 available in the Reserve Fund from the current fiscal year. That leaves the balance of $50,000. He suggested that, were the town to have an emergency requiring more than $50,000, we could use American Rescue Program Act (ARPA) to cover any difference. White asked for comment on suggestion.
- FC seemed unwilling to discuss any issue before budget complete. Apparently seeing their job as review and comment on a completed budget prepared by Canales and White and referred to FC by SB.
- Again, fruitless back and forth about who advises whom.
- One FC member did compliment on an excellent budget. "Seemingly miraculous" that with inflation, the budget hardly went up.
Photo: Lionel Delevingne