At a virtual meeting of the Board of Finance on December 16, the Board discussed the request from the Board of Selectmen for a $200,000 appropriation for COVID vaccination-related expenses. The BoS had voted to present its request at its meeting the previous evening.
First Selectman Pat Del Monaco made the presentation, explaining that $120,000 of the $200,000 request would be earmarked for the Ridgefield VNA for vaccination services. Communications such as videos and mailers (in English & Spanish), ads in the Town Tribune, and signs and flyers accounted for $13,000. Other costs include cleaning of clinics (held in schools), extra hours for Director of Emergency Management, community testing, and contact tracing.
Ms. Del Monaco also noted that the grant the Town received from the State for contact tracing has run out, so $47,700 has been included in the appropriation so tracing can continue.
Board Member Cheryl Reedy asked who this appropriation would cover. Ms. Del Monaco responded that it appears at the moment that the funding would cover vaccinating first responders and people over age 65 as well as everyone who is considered “at risk” (phases 1a, b & c). She said it was her understanding that pharmacies would be vaccinating the remainder of the general population (Phase 2) when their turn comes up.
Board Member Jane Landers asked who else, if any, would be vaccinating besides the municipalities during Phase 1. Ms. Del Monaco replied that currently, the health care systems are vaccinating their own employees.
Selectman Khris Hall added that nursing homes are vaccinating both employees and residents. She also said there is an electronic scheduling and management system to coordinate applications and appointments for vaccinations called the Vaccine Administration and Management System (VAMS) that has been set up by the CDC.
After further discussion the Board passed a motion to approve an appropriation up to $200,000 for delivery of COVID Phase 1 vaccinations.
The Pension & Bonding Subcommittee gave a report on the Town’s AAA bonding rating and the seven factors that are considered by S&P when it assigns its rating. Subcommittee Chair Mark Werner stated that the seven factors are the Town’s economic base, a municipality’s financial management, its budgetary performance, budgetary flexibility, its liquidity, debt & contingent liabilities, and the institutional framework. Each factor is weighted with the economy counting for 30% and financial management 20%. The remaining five factors each account for 10% of the overall weighted score. Scores range from 1 (Very Strong) to 5 (Very Weak). A municipality receives a AAA rating if its weighted average factor score is between 1 and 1.64.
In reviewing New Fairfield’s average as of March 2020, the town received a score of 1.4. New Fairfield ranked very strong for economic, budgetary flexibility, liquidity, and debt & contingent liabilities. The Town received a Strong (2) rating for financial management, budgetary performance, and institutional framework.
Mr. Werner noted that the factors where the town rated a 1 were areas where the town is already performing a peak efficiency. He recommended that the Board review the other three factors to determine if those could be improved.
One way, he noted, to improve the financial management factor would be to develop a formal long range financial plan. He said that Avon was able to upgrade its score in this area to Very Strong by developing such a plan. As a result, the Subcommittee recommended that the Board strongly consider developing a mechanism that would require departments and boards to submit long range budget projections (5 years) when making their annual budget presentations.
The Subcommittee also refined its recommendations from a previous meeting regarding the development of a guide for the structure of the Town’s Pension Commission. He noted that the Subcommittee was suggesting that the town hold a town meeting to revise the Pension Commission Ordinance late next year to possibly expand its oversight.the Subcommittee also assembled a draft agenda to assemble the Pension Commission as it believed the Commission has never met.
After further discussion, the Board voted to authorize the Subcommittee to discuss its pension and bonding recommendations with the First Selectman, Board of Education Chair, and the Town and BoE Finance Directors before February 1.
The Board then discussed a new fraud policy draft outlining employee responsibilities and consequences for infractions. Board Members Jane Landers and Anthony Yorio had been tasked with developing the new policy. Ms. Landers noted that they had tried to cover every situation and to protect whistleblowers. After some discussion, the Board approved the policy, subject to approval by the Board of Selectmen and Town Legal Counsel.
The next regular meeting of the Board of Finance will be held January 20 at 7:30pm.
By Greg Slomba