Below is a video (Part I + Part II) of the meeting…. (using Windows Media Player will allow you to skip and listen to various portions of the meeting).
Select Board Meeting- 8-23-10, Part I
Select Board Meeting- 8-23-10, Part II
A large portion of the discussion involved mechanics of how the SB and individual board members would interact with each other and the Town Manager during the coming year.
Use of subcommittees (financial + operational) were proposed to facilitate a large portion of the SB’s work. These subcommittees (2 members max. each) would assess issues and prepare recommendations for the entire SB to discuss and to make decisions.
There was also a discussion about creating a new town committee that would be responsible for developing a much overdue long range capital plan to address Longmeadow’s failing water/sewer, street and building infrastructure. The need for additional school capital improvements in addition to the new high school was mentioned several times.
The need to continue reducing the cost of town government operations through improved operating efficiencies, productivity improvements, increased outsourcing, regionalization of operations and lower rates of increase for employee compensation and health care was highlighted. It was suggested that the SB consider the use of an outside consultant to identify key cost savings opportunities within town operations.
Additional highlights/ details of the meeting included:
- Formation of a financial “subcommittee” to assist with the development of the town annual budget and other financial issues that face the SB was proposed. Aseltine and Barkett both expressed dissatisfaction with last year’s budget process and wanted to change the methodology. A proposal was made to change the format of how the budget is developed by creating a “financial subcommittee” (similar to that employed by the School Committee). This new subcommittee would "assist" the Town Manager by setting specific goals and then helping to work out the details. This financial subcommittee could consist of only 2 SB members since 3 or more would represent a board quorum.
At times during this discussion the proposal for a new financial subcommittee seemed to be in conflict with the Town Charter since the Town Manager (not the SB) has the primary responsibility for preparing the town budget.
- Barkett expressed a desire to rein in the activities of any “rogue” board members (Gold ? + Santaniello ?) who directly interact with department heads to obtain budget or other information. Aseltine and Barkett both favored a board protocol that required all information requests or questions be channeled through the SB chair and then through the Town Manager who would then ask the Dept. Head for the information. They believed that this would make for more efficient use of town employees' time and reduce redundant requests. Neither Gold and Santaniello supported that idea because they felt at times they needed to make direct contact with Department heads in order to have their budget related or other questions answered.
This proposal appeared to be directed at strengthening the chairman’s control of individual SB members direct interaction with town employees. Barkett pointed out that during last year’s budget process, it was Gold who acted as an “financial subcommittee” of one. This initiative by Gold provided a route to a budget compromise which was ultimately supported by the majority of the SB. Interestingly enough, it was Aseltine and Barkett who voted NO on this budget that was passed at the Annual Town Meeting.
- Consistency of financial reporting between the school department and town government was also highlighted as a strong need. Also, an improved presentation of the budget to the town at the Annual Town Meeting will be sought.
- A concern: New subcommittee meetings must be public meetings and will require meeting minutes to be written and posted.
- Formation of an “operational” subcommittee…. again this discussion appeared to be one that involved reining in direct contact with town department heads or town employees by individual SB members…
- Aseltine, Barkett and Swanson favored the subcommittee approach while Gold and Santaniello had significant reservations.
- Formation of a town committee to evaluate the town’s long range capital needs including buildings, water/ sewer and roads. Santaniello suggested that this committee be formed without elected officials to ensure that the committee’s report is unbiased. Swanson objected strongly stating that she didn’t think a committee of non-elected volunteers would be able to accomplish much.
- A proposed consolidation of the School and Town IT departments was discussed in order to reduce costs and develop synergies.
- Aseltine proposed that the SB go paperless using Googlesites (GoogleDocs?) so that the volume of material printed for each meeting could be dramatically reduced. In addition, information can be more readily shared with town residents if it were available online. In a related matter, there was no discussion about plans or timeline for resolution of the town’s Longmeadow.org website problems.