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Budget Committee Minutes 09/16/2008
Town of Chichester Budget Committee
Meeting Minutes

Meeting Date:   September 16, 2008
Minutes Prepared By:  Bruce Dyke
In Attendance:  Lisa Drouse, Bruce Dyke, Norm Larachelle, John Martell, Scott Marston,
                           Lucille Noel, Jason Weir
Location:  Grange Hall
Minutes Approved:  DRAFT

        -    The meeting was called to order at 6:35pm.

-    Bruce Dyke welcomed all committee members back for the start of the 2009 budget planning process.

-       The first agenda item regarding the proposed use of a Budget Item Justification form that had been developed during the end of the FY2008 budget planning process was discussed.  It was noted by Lisa Drouse that the intent of the form would be for department heads to address any noteworthy variance of a budget line item from one year to another as well as to justify any change is service (ie. Adding/reducing hours for a position, adding or removing a position, changing the scope of a department’s service, etc).  A similar form/set of data would also be collected for Capital project/purchase requests and is being implemented by the CIP Committee.   Jason Weir raised concern as to whether the form was necessary for a town our size.  John Martell also noted that department shouldn’t be burdened with further paperwork requirements.  

Chichester’s Road Agent David Kenneally and Fire Chief Gil Vien who were also present at the meeting requested the opportunity to address the Committee and both raised concerns about the ability to gather the level of detailed information outlined on the proposed form, especially if such information was collected months in advance of actual voting on proposed items.

Additional discussion among the Budget Committee members took place, with the majority of the group speaking in favor of the form’s use.  Bruce and Jason both stated that the use of the form would require clear guidelines with respect to when the form would be required.  Bruce suggested that a the form be required in the event any budget line item changed by more than 10% over the prior year’s budget or if a service level change (as described earlier) occurred.  

It was noted by Jason Weir (as a follow-up to concerns raised earlier by the Fire Chief and Road Agent) that the use of the form was subject to the discrection of the Budget Committee and Selectmen and it was understood that any major changes which impacted the town (i.e. substantial fuel cost increases) would likely result in a decision being made to not require any justification form for such issues.  Bruce Dyke suggested that any such issues would be reviewed by the BC and Selectmen at the start of each budget planning process and appropriate guidance regarding the justification form requirement would be provided to the department heads as needed.

After some additional discussion, Bruce Dyke made a motion that a recommendation be made to the Board of Selectmen to have the Budget Item Justification Form be required for any budget item which varies by more than 10% over the previous budget amount or in situations where a service change is being proposed by a department.  The motion was seconded by Lisa Drouse and was approved by the Committee by a 5 to 2 vote.

-       Discussion on the second agenda item concerning a recommendation to the Board of
Selectmen for a target increase/decrease for the FY2009 budget took place.    It was noted that a fair amount of excess expense had been removed from the budget over the last couple years and concerns were raised about the feasibility of achieving a zero-growth budget for the upcoming year.  

Bruce reviewed with the group the FY2008 budget which actually decreased by 1/3 of a percent, over the prior years budget, even with employee salary increases included.  It was further noted that the directive to the department heads last year was to provide a zero-growth budget, excluding salary related line items.  

Additional discussion occurred with concerns about the impact of rising fuel costs being raised.  John Martell expressed concerns for potential impacts (cuts) to life/safety related services if departments were required to maintain a flat budget for the upcoming year.   Bruce reminded the group that the goal of a flat budget would be specific to the total, bottom line budget for the entire town budget which would allow flexibility to potentially move funds from one department to another.

The group agreed that a flat budget for FY2009 would be very difficult to achieve, but a motion was made to recommend to the Selectmen to “Strive” for a flat (bottom line) budget increase, with an expectation that employees would still receive reasonable salary increases.  The motion was approved by the group by a 6 to 1 vote.

-       Bruce Dyke noted the time was 7pm and made a motion to temporarily adjourn the meeting in order for the Budget Committee to meet with the Board of Selectmen as previously scheduled.  The motion was seconded by Lisa Drouse and approved unanimously by the group.  

-       The Budget Committee meeting resumed at 7:35pm (all members present except for Lisa Drouse).

-       Some additional discussion regarding the recommended flat budget goal occurred and the vote taken just prior to the 7pm adjournment was clarified to ensure the proper vote was recorded.  Bruce had initially thought the vote was unanimous, when in fact it was 6 to 1 on favor (as noted above).

-       Discussion regarding agenda item three commenced, which involved nominations for Chairperson and Vice Chairperson for the upcoming year.  Jason Weir asked if anyone else might be interested in the roles, then Norm LaRochelle made a motion that Bruce Dyke and Jason Weir remain as Chair/Vice Chair respectively.  The motion was seconded by Lucille Noel and approved by a 4-0 vote (2 members abstained from the vote and one member had left the meeting prior to the vote).

-       Lucille Noel commented on a recent program she heard on NH Public Radio’s “The Exchange” during which the guests discussed some of the benefits of regionalizing services.  In particular, she noted that Gordon Preston, who is one of Barnstead’s Selectmen and also a member of the Suncook Valley Regional Town Association was on the program as a guest and discussed a number positive steps towns are starting to take to share resources and ideas.  To that end, Lucille suggested that the Budget Committee discuss with the Selectmen and department heads possible areas of cost reduction through simple things such as adjusting thermostats in town buildings, reducing idling time of town vehicles, etc.  The group agreed that such items (and others) were noteworthy and should be raised during the upcoming budget planning meetings.

-       John Martell noted that we all should strive for more orderly meetings with the department heads and Selectmen, as some of last year’s meetings presented a bit of a challenge in keeping the group focused, limiting discussion to one point at a time, etc.  The group agreed and noted that it’s sometimes hard to hear discussions with multiple conversations taking place.

-       Jason Weir suggested that a recommendation be given to the Selectmen and the Town’s Moderator to explore the feasibility of putting “loose schedule” around the Town Meeting agenda, providing residents with a general time frame with respect to when certain budget items would likely be discussed and voted upon.  This idea would be intended to improve overall participation in Town Meeting, by including those people who may not be able to attend the entire meeting, but make an attempt to be present for certain portions that may be of interest to them.  It was noted that creating (and sticking to) such a schedule could be very challenging, but the group agreed it was a worthwhile recommendation to pursue.

        -     Norm LaRochelle made a motion to adjourn the meeting which was seconded by Scott
            Marston.  The vote to adjourn was unanimous and Bruce Dyke closed the meeting at

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