Vol. IV No. 7 4/1/2023
Notes from the Select Board Meeting (SB), March 23, Hybrid meeting
- Patrick White, Chair
- Jamie Minacci
- Chuck Cardillo
- Michael Canales
- Attendees via Zoom identified if they speak
- Pledge of Allegiance
- Special permit for 104 Interlaken — approved (see PB notes for details).
- MA Supreme Court ruled folks can speak in public meetings even if rude — Chair read the decision and hoped all would be civil anyway (this does not negate Chair's other rights and responsibilities)
- Seasonal Alcohol license for Naumkeag approved.
- Chair recused himself as an abutter on issue of seasonal alcohol license for Tanglewood — approved by other two.
- Minutes for February 6 meeting approved as written.
- Budget — Chair said Finance Committee wants to review SB budget next week so Chair wants to go over — and vote to refer to FC.
- Chair went over his suggested changes for lower taxes for everyone.
- Every $90,000 saved in budget saves 1% in our taxes.
- Chair's first suggestion: use Free Cash for expenses and not raise budget therefore not raise taxes
- There is a $434,000 obligation that we can pay off out of the Stabilization Fund and reduce budget. Also, if Town votes to do roadwork at Red Lion Inn corner (combine with crosswalks) and take money out of Stabilization Fund.
- Interest rate have risen — budget should reflect that town treasurer has invested in CDs so we have guaranteed increase annual Town income approximately $70,000.
- Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) is almost fully funded (90%+) Stop putting money in and take some expenses out otherwise the actuaries predict we will be $1.4million over what's needed in a few years. In case of any difficulty, make up with American Rescue Plan $.
- At Chair's suggestion in 2021 Town raised food and room tax from 4% to 6% — increasing income to Town markedly.
- Use ARPA $ for bonuses due to inflation (rather than raising salaries)
- Reduce litigation budget item drastically because only spending about $2,600/annually but had $85,000 in the line item
- Budget is going down even with bonuses and salary increases to Town workers including our fire fighters and EMTs.
- Chair continued, spend $12,000 for pilot study to determine if a computer program (used in GB) can tack rental properties. Apparently, Stockbridge had over 130 short-term rental properties in February and only 13 registered with Town. State records show around 90 registered to pay taxes on rental income. If the computer program can track them down and they register with Town and State, Town income goes up. The pilot program is an investment in future income not just an expense.
- Authorized Canales to prepare budget with changes and make any small adjustment as long as the "budget is level" - no increase in taxes from last year to this year and probably below last year. White repeated his were measures that lowered taxes for ALL property tax payers.
During Public Comments, Anita Schwerner read a prepared statement: "There's been a violation of the town bylaws. Just after Thanksgiving 2022, the paid position of Council on Aging Director was advertised in the Eagle, Shopper's Guide and Mass Hire as a part-time, non-benefited position with an hourly range of salary between $20 to 25 per hour based upon experience and certifications.
Statement by Anita Schwerner
Our town administrator Michael Canales was on the selection committee that reviewed the applications. A red flag should have gone off and Roxanne McCaffrey's application should have immediately been removed from consideration because she was not eligible to be appointed to any paid town position until May 17, 2023 - one year after the end of her term as selectman. Her appointment is clearly a violation of Article III Section 5 which states:
A selectman may not hold any other compensatory office or employment in Stockbridge Town Government during the term for which he/she is elected, nor hold any compensated appointive town office or employment for one year thereafter.
This is where we are now. As of March 1, she is in the position. Moving forward - we need to make sure that the bylaw is followed as it was written and approved at the 2019 Annual Town Meeting.
Rather than looking for ways around the bylaws, the Town Administrator and Town Counsel should be following our bylaws. Thank you.
Photo: Lionel Delevingne