Shaw Israel Izikson, Contributor
While purchasing policies and procedures were debated at a special Selectboard meeting on Monday, Oct. 4 at Town Hall, no official decisions were made.
The purpose of the special meeting, according to Chair Matt Krasnow, was for the board to discuss how to improve the process for developing the town’s Fiscal 2022-2023 budget.
As the meeting began, board member Louise McCarren said one obstacle the town has faced in developing a fiscal budget is that sometimes committee expenditures are not fully listed in the committee’s budget.
“One of the things I am thinking about is that the townspeople should be able to scroll through a committee’s work and be assured that this is their budget, and these are the things that they are going to spend it on,” McCarren said. “If it needs to change, then there’s an avenue to change [the budget, by coming] back to the selectboard.”
Krasnow said town committees should format their proposed budgets to reflect what they are spending their budgets on.
“I found myself in the position a few times this year of seeing things on the warrants that were not presented during budget season,” Krasnow said. “An inordinate amount of time was spent on trying to piece it together, figure it out and have discussions during an already busy year.”
Selectboard member James Faulkner said another problem committee members have been dealing with is when members using their own money to pay for items.
Selectboard member Lewis Mudge agreed.
“I don’t think anyone wants to use their own money to pay for an expense, especially in a volunteer capacity,” Mudge said. “I’m sure all of us at work pay for expenses. I use my credit card at work because I just need to do it and expedite things.”
The board members then debated when it would be appropriate for committee members to make expenditure requests from the selectboard and the appropriate use of the town’s credit card for items needed by committees.
Trails Committee Chairman William Regan told the board he would be happy to abide by whatever procedures the board puts into place for expenditure requests.
“The only thing I would ask for is some flexibility,” Regan said. “In the case of the Trails Committee, we have minor expenses. A sign gets knocked down in a storm or we run out of doggie poop bags. Presumably, the selectboard does not want to spend its time approving doggie poop bags. As long as there is some flexibility for the budget. Unexpected expenditures are quite different from the new projects envisioned in the budget.”
Krasnow suggested that the town amend its purchasing policy so a committee’s purchasing agent would be authorized by the selectboard to make purchases up in certain categories: up to $1,000 and from $1,000 to $5,000.
The discussion then turned to whether committees should designate American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in their upcoming budget requests.
Krasnow said that town has until 2024 to commit to where to spend its ARPA funds, and until 2026 to spend the funds.
“Just to manage expectations, any budget requests for ARPA funds should be aspirational,” Mudge said. “We shouldn’t be waiting for waiting sake, but I don’t think [ARPA fund spending] will be settled by this budget season.”
About 30 minutes into the meeting, Charlotte Park Oversight Committee (CPOC) Co-Chairman Susan Smith questioned the selectboard on the purpose of the discussion.
“I just wonder if there’s been some sort of problem that you are trying to fix?” Smith asked the board. “Is that why you are doing this? It seems complicated.”
Board members told Smith that they wanted to create parameters for expenditures by committee members.
“I think it’s important to realize that townspeople should be able to see these committee budgets and know where their money is being spent,” McCarren said. “I don’t think that has been carried out sufficiently.”
“I think you should weigh in with how much you value your committees because they are doing free work,” Smith said. “Maybe just talk to the people who are having problems with their budgeting instead of making it more difficult for everyone by making them have to put in more time.”
“Whenever we had to change our budget, we have had nothing but a positive experience with it,” CPOC Co-Chair Jessie Bradley said. “We have come to the selectboard and have done what Matt [Krasnow] said. The board has been responsive to us. We have had issues but have not been held up. We’ve got a lot of cooperation and good communication.”
Town Clerk Mary Mead said that the real issue is budget expenditures for what she calls “big ticket” items.
“To be honest, we’re talking about beaver deceivers for the park which they needed and should have come before the selectboard probably because it wasn’t in the budget that anyone anticipated,” Mead said. “We are also talking about electric bikes for the Energy Committee. C’mon guys, let’s just be honest here. It’s the big-ticket items and it’s not poop bags for the Trails Committee. The Trails Committee has a small operating budget, and they can buy signage, poop bags, mailings. They don’t have to come before the selectboard for $75 for whatever.”
Forty minutes into the meeting and right after comments made by Smith, Bradley, and Mead, Krasnow said that “I’m going to have to step away for a bit.”
Krasnow left the meeting and did not come back, despite promising to return.