At a virtual meeting of the Board of Finance on September 16, the 2019-2020 education and municipal budget surpluses and the use of some or all them for COVID-19 remediation and other expenses cut out of the current final budget.
According to Town Treasurer and Finance Director Ed Sbordone, the total preliminary operating surplus for the 2019-2020 fiscal year were approximately $1,173,000.33 in Board of Education and municipal expenditures and approximately $376,906.52 in revenue for a total surplus of $1,549,906.85.
As a result, Mr. Sbordone outlined a proposed distribution plan for both the BoE surplus and the municipal surplus. He state that the Board of Education would like to place $625,540.89 of the surplus into a special non-lapsing account (meaning the account could carry over year to year) to be used for COVID-19 and special education expenses.
The Board of Selectmen was proposing using $623,027.90 of the surplus. Of that total, $225,000 would be put into the boat dock replacement fund to help cover part of the cost of the first phase of the boat dock replacement projects, scheduled to be implemented this fall. The remainder would be used to fund items that were cut from the current year’s budget proposal such as replacement of a plow truck, road repair, a sewer study, tax revaluation and zoning regulation review.
As Selectman Kim Hanson pointed out, the BoS still has to meet to formally discuss and vote on the items proposed. First Selectman Pat Del Monaco noted this would be an item on the agenda for the next BoS meeting on September 24.
If approved, the remaining surplus of $301,338.06 would remain in the general fund.
The Board discussed the process required to approve such a distribution. Board Chair Wes Marsh noted that the BoE appropriation would only require a vote of the Board of Finance to approve, whereas normally, it would take a vote at a town meeting to approve an appropriation of funds on the municipal side. He noted, and Ms. Del Monaco confirmed, that the Governor’s executive order giving the Board of Finance the right to vote on an appropriation in place to a town meeting vote due to the COVID-19 pandemic was still in effect until at least early November.
After some discussion, the Board decided to further discuss and possibly vote on both appropriation proposals at its next regular meeting October 21 once the BOS and the BOE had met to finalize their proposals.
Director of Budget & Operations Dr. Richard Sanzo spoke about the district’s need to use the surplus to offset expenses incurred and anticipated due to the steps taken to hold in person and remote classes safely during the pandemic. Some expenses he outlined were additional staffing expenses, cleaning and custodial expenses, increased electric costs due to running the ventilation system for longer periods of time before and after classes. While the district anticipates some reimbursement from both the State and FEMA, the total is unknown at this point in time as are any additional expenses as the pandemic continues.
The Board also discussed the recommendation by the Town’s external auditors that it draw up a fraud/conflict of interest policy. Mr. Marsh stated that he brought an existing policy, adopted in the early 1990’s, to their attention. He noted that the auditors had agreed to drop the recommendation from their report. The auditors did advise that it be updated to include treatment of the public, use of town resources, and employment incompatible with town duties.
Board Member Cheryl Reedy stated that she was puzzled how the policy could have escaped the auditors’ notice as it is given to all elected officials when they are sworn in and to all new employees.
The next regular mtg. of the BOF will be held Oct. 21, 7:30pm.