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By Shirley Murtha
The annual Three Board Meeting took place on January 23, 2017, following a review by Blum Shapiro CPA Nikoleta McTigue of the three annual Town of Granby financial reports: the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the State Single Audit Report, and the Federal Single Audit Report. Each covers the fiscal year from July 1 to June 30. McTigue noted that all was in order and that the town, as always, was cooperative and helpful in allowing her access to the necessary materials.
First Selectman Scott Kuhnly began the Three Board Meeting by explaining the “Plus-One Budget” process that was adopted several years ago by the boards of selectmen, finance and education. The three boards meet in December to review ongoing needs. Once these needs are reviewed, a preliminary guideline is given to the boards from the Board of Finance. A final guideline is adopted in February when more detailed revenue and expenditure information is available.
The town manager develops the budget in order to sustain town operations, including employee wages, salaries and benefits and the services that residents expect. As usual, the town manager will meet with all department heads and hold workshops for public questions and comments.
Kuhnly pointed out that the implementation of state mandates continues to challenge the budget process, as meeting the mandates supersedes local authority. Unfortunately, many of these mandates are put in place without a proper cost analysis. He cited the recent realignment of the probate system and the current attempt to combine health districts as examples.
Town Manager Bill Smith distributed copies of his Plus-One Budget and commented on some pertinent features. Wages, salaries and benefits show an increase of 3 percent over the current budget, whereas insurance costs show a 6 percent increase. Yet unknown are expected increases in materials and equipment. As reported in the February Drummer BOS report, Smith hopes to be able to reinstate a police officer and a public works employee and to restore cutbacks in library service.
As presented on January 23, Smith’s Plus-One budget requires $445,400 over the current year (a 4.3 percent increase). If the add-backs are included, the cost is $524,300 (5.1 percent) increase over the current operating budget.
Board of Education Chairman Ron Walther presented Superintendent Alan Addley’s Plus-One budget, noting that the first year of operating budget projections is typically the most accurate; the farther out you go, the more needs and requirements may change. The BOE’s Plus-One budget for the next five years supports the board’s long-term goals while recognizing the economy’s slow recovery, and dropping enrollment. Over the past eight years, the operating budgets have had an average increase of 1 percent.
Some highlights from the BOE Plus-One include five teacher retirements, a 4.2 percent increase in health benefits, the need for three new buses, and a large increase in special education tuition, transportation and additional assistants. The final result is a 2.94 percent increase over the current budget. More details on the BOE budget were reported in the February Drummer.
Board of Finance Chairman Mike Guarco concluded the meeting by saying that we must recognize the challenges facing the towns. The state is in financial trouble and our resources are in jeopardy. Unfortunately, those resources are a very important piece in attempting to formulate our budget. He hopes that the BOE can keep to a 2 percent increase and that the municipal budget can come in at 2.5 percent.
Editor’s note: Copies of the preliminary Plus-One budgets can be seen in the Town Hall and Board of Education offices.