Town manager presents “below reasonable” budget

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​Board Of Selectmen Report By Shirley Murtha

Town Manager William Smith began his presentation of the proposed 2016-2017 budget by explaining the procedures and policies that are undertaken in developing the budget. These include computer modeling, audit reports, studies of debt management, internal controls and risk management, the town’s growth in economic development, and purchasing methods—especially with an eye to regional cost sharing.
Smith showed a series of slides illustrating Granby’s position in certain fiscal categories compared to neighboring towns. For example, Granby ranks 33rd in the state for median household income ($100,262) yet ranks 144th in per-pupil expenditure ($13,268). Comparable numbers are: Avon ($116,565/$14,340); Simsbury ($109,823/$15,086); and Suffield ($94,610/$14,161).
Smith noted that the Board of Finance guideline increase of 2.5 percent ($251,596) is less than what can sustain current operations. Operational budget increases since FY2011 have been considerably less than needed to meet contractual mandates and the town’s expanded services. The selectmen’s overall operational budget has not added any full-time staff for over 15 years, with the exception of the police department that is still understaffed.
In order to sustain current services and meet expectations in all town departments, an amount close to $800,000 would be needed. If some budget requests had been met in previous years, this amount would not be as high. As it is, base level needs require an extra $354,595 causing a 3.5 percent mill rate increase.
Areas of high risk, as identified on the list of town operational reductions, include contract settlements, insurance, police staffing, public works staffing, equipment maintenance, and infrastructure maintenance, particularly of the closed Kearns School.
With the budget at the 2.5 percent mill-rate-increase guideline, there will be little or no funds returned to surplus from town operations. This will impact: fund balance reserves for emergencies; create a need for additional appropriations during the 2016-2017 fiscal year; proper snow and ice control, and park services and building and road maintenance services will decrease. It also places the town’s AA+ bond rating  at risk if money needs to be drawn from fund balance reserves that are now below recommended “best practices” levels.
Copies of the Town Manager’s report and the detailed budget are available in the town hall and at the libraries.
Approvals for Senior Services
The board approved two requests from Director of Human Services Sandy Yost. The town will be applying for a $5,500 non-matching grant (the town does not add an equal amount) from the Older Americans Act initiated in 1965. This fund the continuance of the Grandparents Support Group as well as other senior activities. The other approval is a $28,600 matching grant from the Connecticut Department of Transportation to assist in the hiring of a full-time senior van driver. The 50 percent matching funds are provided for in the budget under Senior Van Services.
Public Session
Land Study Recommendation
Representing the now disbanded Town-owned Land Use Study Committee, Peg Lareau reminded the board that as part of its final report, the committee recommended that the Evonsion property be maintained as an agricultural property, but also that a perimeter trail be established around the field. It was felt that this would be an enhancement for town residents. Lareau urged the board to study how this perimeter trail might be implemented and to set about installing it.
TAP Program
Gerry Ledger provided a history and update on the Transportation Action Program instituted in 1967 at the First Congregational Church. It continues there today under the aegis of its Mission Committee. Residents who do not require wheel chairs may make appointments for transportation to their doctors’ offices or to the hospital for medical procedures. This program is instrumental in helping seniors remain in their homes.
There are currently two coordinators and 14 volunteer drivers. More drivers would be greatly appreciated. To volunteer as a driver (or to make an appointment for the service), call 860-264-6131.
Residents 60 years of age and older who require wheelchairs can arrange for transportation through the Senior Van service, which is run out of the Senior Center (860-844-5353). An annual fee of $10 is required. Call the office (860-844-5353) for information on hours of service and the other programs for which the Senior Van provides transportation.
Community Service Nominations
Selectman Mark Neumann noted that the annual Community Service Awards Committee that determines the award recipients is accepting nominations in the adult and teen categories. The form and instructions can be found in the April Drummer or at town libraries. The completed form should be mailed to the Drummer (P.O. Box 165, Granby, 06035) or dropped off at one of the libraries.
Dave Watkins has been appointed to a two-year term on the Commission on Aging.