The week in government: BOS on downtown encroachments on CSX property; Combined School Committees on Reopening (Updated)

by beth on August 3, 2020

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Above: These days, most meetings that used to welcome the public to attend in the Town House Hearing Room or other public facilities are accessible to the public by video/audio conference calls only.

Here is a selection of the committee and board meetings for the week along with my selected highlights from the agendas.

The Town intends to make each of its meetings available for viewing/listening via streaming live (and saved) video and audio on YouTube with some available for public comment by zoom.* Live streaming of school committee meetings is only available for viewing via webinars.

As always, be aware that changes to the meeting schedule are known to happen throughout the week. For an updated list of meetings, visit the town website.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

  • Board of Selectmen Meeting, 6:00 pm @ Public Safety Facility, Training Room, 32 Cordaville Rd [Note: The public isn’t allowed to attend in person but can view remotely.] (agenda with packet) Agenda Highlights: Letter to abutters about encroachments on CSX Right-of-Way and downtown Main St improvements; Appoint Alternate Building Inspector; Approve Police Officer status change from Student Officer to Probationary Officer; FY2020 Goal-Setting Discussion continued

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

  • Combined Schools Committee Meeting, 6:00 pm @ Virtual Meeting (agenda) Agenda Highlights: Reopening Plan, Budget Update and Policy Implications; 2020-2021 Calendar – Time on Learning; Audience Sharing (Pre-register to view webinar here.)**
  • Board of Registrars of Voters Meeting, 7:30 pm @ Virtual Meeting (agenda) Agenda Highlights: Vote to select location and hours for in-person Early Voting for the September 1, 2020 State Primary election.

*There is the caveat that there could be technical glitches that force the Town to take backup actions:

No in-person attendance of members of the public will be permitted, but every effort will be made to ensure that the public can adequately access the proceedings in real time, via technological means. In the event that we are unable to do so, despite best efforts, we will post on Southborough’s website an audio or video recording, transcript, or other comprehensive record of proceedings as soon as possible after the meeting.

**The Combined School Committees meeting should eventually be aired via SAM Government Channel – Verizon Channel 37/ Charter Channel 192 and YouTube. To view live, register for webinar.

Updated (8/4/20 8:51 am): The BOS agenda and packet were updated to include the remote viewing information.

In addition, the public schools posted agendas for two new Combined School Committee meetings (August 6 at 4:00 pm and August 7 at 8:00 am). But the meetings aren’t really open to the public. (While the meetings will “convene” in open sessions, the only agenda items are immediately entering Closed Executive Sessions with no return to open session.) The first meeting is to to discuss strategy with respect to Collective Bargaining. The second is to conduct collective bargaining sessions with the teachers associations for Northborough, Southborough and Algonquin.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Townie August 3, 2020 at 1:56 PM

Back when the Golf Course was being discussed when the land purchase was going on the residents were told about the possible revenue the course would bring in. It’s apparent by the minutes I just read that’s false. According to Purple the revenue will be put into a revolving account for course upkeep and upgrades. Correct me if I’m wrong, but all departments revenue in town (water, police, fire, DPW) goes directly to the general fund and departments have to fight for their share for upgrade. Why does the golf course get a revolving account? This is very unfortunate

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2 beth August 3, 2020 at 2:39 PM

I watched a lot of presentations and read a lot of material about the golf course leading up to the Town Meeting vote. I don’t recall ever hearing that the course was expected to generate revenue for the Town. What I heard was that it was expected the course would become self sustaining through golf fees. That is what the fund is about.

In addition, I will have to correct that you are wrong about “all departments revenue”. There are a number of Town revolving funds. And, though it’s called an Enterprise Fund, one does exist for the Water Department.

The Town’s Budget Book – posted prior to the 2019 Annual Town Meeting – explained:

A revolving fund separately accounts for specific revenues and earmarks them for expenditure by a board or officer without appropriation for particular purposes to support the activity, program or service that generated the revenues. We currently authorize 9 separate revolving funds for various purposes and dollar limits, including local wetlands filing fees for Conservation Commission, and two Recreation funds for programming and for 9-11 Field. . .
Funds received through these accounts can only be spent on the purpose designated. Additionally for FY20 there is a new proposed revolving fund for the Golf Course operations, which will allow the course to repurpose revenues towards the maintenance of the course.

As for other departments that don’t have one, the book explained under Other funding sources:

There are other smaller accounts that are used as part of the budget process, but they are used sparingly as their balances fluctuate significantly, and these are not a dependable source of revenue. . .
The Ambulance Fund, which is made up of the revenue received for patients using our ambulance service, is earmarked for the replacement of Fire and Ambulance-related capital items, as well as an annual contribution to General Fund revenues to offset related expenses contained in the Fire Department budget. Because these revenue sources are very unstable and unsustainable sources of revenue, we have limited their use in the operational budget in the past two years so as not to create artificial deficits in subsequent fiscal years. Water revenue, which is generated through user fees, is being proposed to be part of an “enterprise fund,” which essentially is an entire separate self-sustaining operation maintained by the Department of Public Works.

At this year’s meeting, voters approved the following spending limits for 10 revolving funds:
1. Immunization/emergency dispensing clinic; $12,000.
2. Inspectional services; $100,000.
3. 9-11 Field Maintenance; $100,000.
4. Wetland Protection; $30,000.
5. Hazardous materials; $75,000.
6. CPR classes; $6,500.
7. Community garden; $2,500.
8. Recreation programs; $400,000.
9. Tobacco Control Program; $4,000.
10. Golf Course maintenance; $30,000.

They also approved the $2,340,692 budget for the Water Enterprise Fund.

It has been a subject of debate whether the Transfer Station should have its own fund. It is currently funded partially by taxes and partially by user fees. Many think it should only be funded by one of those sources but disagree on which one. If it shifted to completely fee based, I believe the Town would set up an Enterprise Fund for that.

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3 Astro Turf ? August 6, 2020 at 1:30 PM

It costs the taxpayers $100,000 to maintain an Astro turf field??
This field, the 9/11 field, was just newly renovated with brand new materials that cost a bundle. What is this $100,000 for? Ridiculous. Where is this money going?

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4 beth August 6, 2020 at 2:02 PM

The Revolving Fund is responsible for paying down the debt for the project. But I don’t know how much is dedicated to that payment each year.

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5 Astro Turf August 7, 2020 at 7:35 AM

Thanks Beth. Where can the details behind these numbers be found?
Also, Recreation Department at $400,000 ?? This is ludicrous. Where is this funding going? Specifically to whom, what companies, or what are these tax dollars directed to??
BTW, there is a pandemic going on. How about a greatly reduced number?!
There are other important priorities that have taken past hits. BOS should re-evaluate this ridiculous amount. Thanks again.

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6 Tim Martel August 7, 2020 at 11:35 AM

“Astro Turf”, this will hopefully provide some clarity:

1. these are spending limits on the revolving fund, not appropriations for the department.
2. this revolving fund is self-funded through program fees that are matched to program expenses.

State and town law require departments to obtain Appropriations from Town Meeting in order to spend money (generally taxes), but that “year over year” planning structure does not always provide proper support for certain department planning needs (e.g. how could Recreation reliably predict the popularity of any given program for the following fiscal year?) So a revolving fund allows Recreation to deposit money from program fees for use against program expenses in a timely manner. Note the general difference between “tax” money versus “fee” money.

To illustrate the point further:
1. The Recreation department salaries are planned “year over year”, so Appropriations are explicitly made from Town Meeting in the Budget warrant article for these costs. (This is generally tax money.)
2. The Recreation programs (e.g. camps, sports, etc.) generally cannot be planned so far in advance, so the fees collected for such programs go into a Revolving Fund from which the Recreation department can withdraw money for associated payments without the need to go to Town Meeting. The limit on this fund has been voted to be 400k. (This is generally not tax money.)

Given the current situation with the pandemic, there have been limited Recreation programs. So not much fee money has been going into or coming out of the revolving fund. Ultimately, given that these amounts are generally balanced, the volume of programs doesn’t really matter on the fund’s balance. (That being said, the program fees generally exceed the program costs by a small amount so the fund does grow over time – thus the limit of 400k. It could be a real money-maker if fees were raised, but our Town is generally more interested in providing quality services to more people as opposed to generating more money from fewer people.)

A very useful article can be found here:
https://www.nhmunicipal.org/town-city-article/understanding-recreation-revolving-fund

Excerpt:
“As programs are designed and offered, the users pay a program fee to support their participation in the program. This means that officials responsible for recreation can confidently plan the programs they wish to offer, and have access to a source of cash to pay for items that are needed in advance. Thus, coaches can be trained, programs may be advertised, and supplies can be ordered in bulk before the program actually begins. Without such a fund, there is always a possibility that money might not be appropriated for the program during the annual budget process, or that the appropriation will be either too small to support a popular program, or too large to support a program that proves to be less popular than expected. If supplies could not be ordered in advance, it is possible that a program such as youth baseball might begin without any baseballs, bats or protective equipment available.”

More info:
https://www.mass.gov/doc/revolving-funds-chart-non-school-department-program/download

Mass General Law:
https://malegislature.gov/laws/generallaws/parti/titlevii/chapter44/section53e1~2

Please feel free to ask questions.

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