By Beth David, Editor
The Acushnet Selectboard continued reviewing budgets at its meeting on Tuesday, 3/5. The board heard from the Golf Committee about its proposed budget, including a new wage and classification study, and from the Accounting Department with suggested amounts for charging back “indirect costs” to various enterprise funds.
Enterprise funds are accounts created from fees, and can only be used to help in the operation of the department that generated those fees. The town has three enterprise funds: the water enterprise fund from water user fees, the sewer enterprise fund from sewer fees, and the golf enterprise funds from golf fees.
The state has been pushing municipalities to more accurately charge the enterprise funds for services provided by other town departments, such as payroll, health insurance management, which are generally administered by departments in town hall, and also retirement benefits. Municipalities are supposed to calculate the percentage of time a payroll clerk, for example, spends on doing payroll for the water department employees, then charge the water enterprise account for that.
Acushnet Finance Director/Town Accountant Julie Hebert, prepared the numbers for the indirect costs. She told the board it was everything they could charge to the funds, but they could decide to charge some of it, not all. She said they could also phase it in.
She told the board that the state requires them to look at the indirect costs and use a methodology to calculate costs.
Board member Kevin Gaspar questioned some of the numbers, saying they made no sense to him. He also said that water and sewer rates would have to be raised if the funds were suddenly being used to pay for positions, such as the Town Administrator or payroll clerk. The town needs those positions anyway, he said.
Selectboard chairperson Mike Cioper said it was actually giving money back to the taxpayers, because they are using rate payer money. Not all town residents have water and sewer.
Mr. Gaspar disagreed, saying it was not giving anything back, it was just using it somewhere else.
Ms. Hebert said they are already charging some costs to the enterprise funds.
But Mr. Gaspar persisted, saying the numbers looked “out of whack.”
Ms. Hebert said she used a standard methodology, but the town could use a different one.
Mr. Gaspar especially had a problem with using the Golf Enterprise fund for the golf course. He said it was not the same as water or sewer.
Board member Roger Cabral noted that the numbers they had in front of them were the possibilities. They were not voting that night.
Mr. Gaspar said he calculated that water and sewer rates would have to go up 85 cents and 55 cents. The town sent out 400 demand notices last year, he said, which means people are already having trouble paying their water and sewer bills.
He made a vague warning to people who are not familiar with Acushnet and how it operates.
Ms. Hebert said she understood his complaint, but that he also needed to realize that the taxpayers who do not have water and sewer were subsidizing those services.
Mr. Gaspar noted that about 90% have water. And Ms. Hebert said that if they get to 100% then they should eliminate the enterprise fund because would no longer be necessary. The point of the accounts is to fund the enterprise.
The Department of Public Works also caused a problem, since they routinely use highway, water and sewer workers interchangeable, especially on big projects.
Dan Menard of the DPW said he simply did not have the people.
“There’s no way I an do it,” he said, adding that the different departments use the same vehicles, too.
“I’ve had water guys cutting grass at the library,” said Mr. Gaspar.
The board also voted to accept the new wage and classification plan for the golf course. It puts each position into a grade and level, and allows for the planned increases in minimum wage.
The board also went into executive session to discuss wage and classifications for non-union employees, against the wishes of Mr. Gaspar. He asked the board to postpone the discussion because he had a problem with his heat at his home and had to leave.
Mr. Cabral said he felt they had delayed the discussion enough times.
“We just keep kicking the can down the road,” he said, adding that they would not make any decisions, or take any votes. He said he felt they could make progress on some issues, even if Mr. Gaspar was not there. Mr. Cioper agreed and the vote was 2-1 to convene in executive session.
“Thanks for the respect,” said Mr. Gaspar as he left the room.
“Any time,” said someone, but it was unclear who said it, and the online meeting video does not show the exchange, although it is also unclear if the open session had been adjourned.
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