Meeting Minutes of the Select Board

 Location:  Town offices Date:  January 4, 2022
 Opened:    9:30 am Adjourned: 12:25 pm

Select Board: Andrea Hodson, Kathy Scott, Andrew Maneval______________________

Attendees: EMD and Building Maintenance Jeff Cady, Fire Chief Wayne Derosia, Police Chief Mike Tollett, Road Agent Wes Tarr

Agenda, Minutes
Following review of the agenda and minutes of the previous meeting, the board voted to approve both as submitted.

2022 Budget
In preparation for the first Budget Hearing on Thursday, January 20, the Select Board reviewed the draft operating budget and discussed the potential of a tax rate increase. Any increase would be due to increased vendor and supply costs in 2022, including for fuel and electricity, as well as to warrant article items.  The distribution of ARPA funds may offset or reduce certain lines.

As of now the proposed budget is $122,000 over the 2021 budget. The unapproved total budget at this time comes to $1,486,269. The board noted, however, that roughly $180,000 is being returned to the unassigned fund balance, which will help offset the tax impact of the 2022 budget. Encumbered expenses amount to $48,000.

The town’s current tax rate is $5.08. Applying the proposed budget as is would result in a tax rate of $6.04.

Warrant articles
The Road Agent and Police Chief discussed the shortage of available new vehicles and parts. The situation affects individual Warrant Articles under consideration. The board awaits more cost estimates from department heads and suppliers and continues to review priorities and options to reduce the expense impact, after which the board will finalize the warrant articles to be brought forth at the March 8th Town Meeting. The board also discussed use of Capital Reserve Funds toward any large purchases and how this would affect the tax rate.  It will continue to prepare the budget as more specific figures come in.

2022 Budget – Fire Department
The Fire Chief submitted the proposed budget for his department as well as the year in review for emergency calls and responses; overall, there were fewer calls in 2021. Chief Derosia explained that proposed changes are due to updated software and communications needs, and training requirements. The current software system is going away in 2022.

The board asked about the need for a backup ambulance service once the county purchase of DiLuzio Ambulance goes through. The Fire Chief discussed the town’s continued need to have a backup in the event no primary ambulance is available. The board will continue to look into what FD budget lines may be supported by ARPA funds. Separately Chief Derosia encouraged the SB to meet with Select Boards of area towns to discuss issues in common, such as fire/rescue and other regional issues.

Budget / other
Employee Healthcare –
Given notice of a medical insurance premium increase by HealthTrust, the Select Board is considering and notified department heads of a potential adjustment in the current 90-10 percentage.  The town currently covers 90% of the cost of health premiums and eligible employees pay 10%. With the increase effective July 2022, this ratio could be adjusted to 85-15%. The board shared with employees how this would affect each paycheck, based on the individual policy held. 

Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) – The board reviewed eligibility status of town employees and will consider the effect of a few different rates of increase on the budget before finalizing this decision. 

Conservation Commission – The Conservation Commission has weighed two options for requesting funding from the town to prevent and manage aquatic invasive species and protect water quality throughout Harrisville. The Select Board has asked the HCC to present financials from different lake associations related to funding costs for the Lake Host program. Kathy Scott will work with the commission to present a definitive proposal and number. 

The next SB meeting is Thursday, January 13, 2022 at 7:00 pm at town offices.