Amherst committee warrant article positions

This following defines the Amherst Ways and Means Committee’s positions on the town warrant articles. As we are a “Ways and Means” Committee, we have only commented on the warrants with financial concerns.

Vote counts are listed in the following sequence: For – Opposed – Abstained

ARTICLE 22: Operating Budget 7-0-0

W&M believes the changes that the Selectmen has incorporated into the fiscal 2015 budget will help in the rebalancing the appropriate funding of departments. We believe these changes have a minimal tax impact on Amherst residents. The increase has been estimated to $0.09 per $1,000, or approximately a $30-increase over last year’s taxes for the average $325,000 home in Amherst.

ARTICLE 23: Contingency Fund 7-0-0

According to a new law, the town budget can no longer contain a line-item for contingencies. This warrant article will provide the necessary mechanism, if needed, to provide funds for the town (up to $100,000) to address unanticipated or urgent issues. Because any money going into the contingency fund will come from the undesignated fund balance (Essentially the town’s state mandated savings account) there is no immediate tax impact.

ARTICLE 24: Police Union Contract 7-0-0

The committee unanimously endorses this article and would like to remind voters that the Amherst Police Union voluntarily offered and accepted a flat contract (0 percent raise) last year to help the town during a difficult financial situation.

ARTICLE 25: Authorization for special meeting on collective bargaining agreement warrant article rejected or amended at annual meeting 7-0-0

This purpose of this article is to provide a way for the town to readdress its responsibility to the bargaining unit if the above article fails.

ARTICLE 26: Non-Lapsing Recreation Playing Field Expansion 6-1-0

Despite the legal name of this warrant article, the money raised by this article will go into the general fund or undesignated fund balance by June 30, 2016, if the purchase of land defined in the article has not occurred by that date.

Some members of W&M feel that the dual-purpose of this land, that is simultaneous use as playing fields and a cemetery is inappropriate. One member felt strongly enough about this to vote against this warrant article. Other members had similar feelings and personally oppose it, but felt that this article was financially good for the town and voted in favor of it.

ARTICLE 27: Fire Truck Capital Reserve Fund 7-0-0

The strategic fleet management schedule that W&M provided to the Selectmen and the town last year requires regular contributions to this fund annually. The tax impact of this article is $0.16 per $1,000, or approximately $52 for the average $325,000 home in Amherst. While this is not an authorization to buy the new engine, it is a deposit into the savings account that can be used to buy another engine.

We feel this will allow Amherst to deploy a first-rate fleet of fire fighting vehicles and avoid an increase in our fire insurance premiums. Our volunteer fire fighters should not have to operate equipment that is not equipped with proper safety-related features.

ARTICLE 28: Assessing Revaluation Capital Reserve Fund 7-0-0

W&M fully endorses the idea of using capital reserve funds to save incrementally for anticipated future expenses.

ARTICLE 29: Communications Center Capital Reserve Fund 7-0-0

W&M fully endorses the idea of using capital reserve funds to save incrementally for anticipated future expenses.

ARTICLE 30: Town Computer System Capital Reserve Fund 7-0-0

W&M fully endorses the idea of using capital reserve funds to save incrementally for anticipated future expenses.

ARTICLE 31: Public Health Mosquito Surveillance and Control program 7-0-0

W&M fully supports this health-related program because the funds will only be spent if the state and federal health agencies determine that the town might be at an elevated level of risk.

ARTICLE 32: Highway Equipment and Vehicle Capital Reserve Fund 7-0-0

Similar to the Fire Department fleet management schedule W&M presented to the Selectmen last year, W&M performed an analysis this year on the Department of Public Works’ capital fleet. That study revealed that because of rejected past capital equipment warrant articles, the age and structure of the existing fleet is not only inadequate to the tasks at hand, but is now costing the taxpayers more money in the form of increased repairs and maintenance, and the need to contract out for private equipment. The tax impact of this article is $0.19 per $1,000, or approximately $62 for the average $325,000 home in Amherst. W&M feels strongly that this warrant article reflects the recommendations of the Capital Improvements Planning Committee to help put the town back on track to getting our fleet in good operating order. The accompanying W&M article contains more detail about this subject.

ARTICLE 33: Replacement Scale Purchase 7-0-0

The existing scale at the Transfer Station is often broken and very expensive to fix. Being unavailable also causes loss of revenue. The design of the new scale is tailored to our particular site conditions and will generate enough revenue and avoid enough repair to mitigate it’s costs significantly. It is expected to pay for itself within two years.

ARTICLE 34: Ambulance Capital Reserve Fund 7-0-0

At present, our second ambulance is nearing the end of its useful life. The replacement capital reserve fund has almost enough to replace it and these funds will make it possible for the town to buy a replacement when its condition deteriorates further.

ARTICLE 39: Amherst Conservation Commission 100 percent of LUCT Funds 0-7-0

W&M unanimously opposes this warrant article. The funds in question are raised from fees that are charged to anyone who takes a parcel of land out of “current use”. Even though the Conservation Commission has a valid and important use for these funds, and W&M is fully appreciative of the value that they add to our community, the committee feels that at least part of this revenue should continue to be used to offset town expenses associated with the development of that land. We also believe that since these funds are not in the budget, the Selectmen can always exercise the option of designating those funds to the ACC when they become available.

Conclusion

We noted last year that the town of Amherst has been unevenly funding some areas in certain departments over the past few years. This has mostly been due to default budgets and failed capital reserve warrant articles. W&M has endeavored to identify the most pressing needs for the town, and made suggestions to the Selectmen regarding the overall budget to help distribute available funds to where they are most needed.

BOB BREWSTER (chair), ANDY OUELLETTE, JAY
DINKEL, RUSS THOMAS, DICK LEFEBVRE, PAULA TROIE, COLLEEN LYNCH, NATE JENSON (Alternate) and JOHN POST (Alternate)

The Amherst Ways & Means Committee