Financial Plan Working Group Keeps Searching
“There are no bad ideas” ~ Phil Totino,
August 22, 2007 — As a follow-up to their meeting three weeks
ago, the Financial Plan Working Group (FPWG) met this afternoon
at Town Hall to mark the progress made since their last meeting
and to plan critical next steps in the process of corralling the
‘structural deficit’ that plagues Hopkinton and most other
Co-chair, Mr. Phil Totino brought the meeting to order
just after 4:00pm with a review of the action items mapped at
the previous meeting. Principal Assessor, Mr. Bob Bushway
reported that he had given revised commercial revenue
projections to Town Accountant, Ms. Heidi Kriger who then
tweaked the financial projections model with those figures as
well as reconfigured several other assumptions.
Mr. Gary Daugherty, Fire Chief and acting Town Manager, had
been tasked with investigating what other towns have done to
address the gaps between their revenues and expenses. From
Milford to Southborough, to Northbridge to Holliston, Mr.
Daugherty reported that budgets had been increased, some have a
dual tax rate, streetlights have been shut off, teachers and
town staff positions have been cut, some teachers were
reinstated in Holliston, Southborough doesn’t have a
stabilization fund, and their recent override failed. “I think
it runs the whole gamut and it includes everything that we’ve
done,” he said.
The question regarding the 10% assumption in annual
increases for utility costs was raised and Mr. Totino responded.
“I went back five years in reviewing the schools’ costs and
found that compounded annually, the increase was 11%. Five years
was the farthest I could go back for the schools. So I looked at
my personal costs and found that for the past five years,
utilities did increase annually at the same 11%. I have natural
gas and the costs have exploded. When I went back another five
years, the costs were basically flat.”
“So what do we do with this assumption now?” Mr. Totino
asked. “Do we take the 11% or do we take the average?”
DPW Director, Mr. J.T. Gaucher added, “The assumption should
include fuel costs as well. I think the assumption for both the
fuel costs and utilities should be 6%. So the model will be
adjusted for the revised assumption.
Mr. Totino then reported on all of the suggestions he
had received at and since the last meeting. He detailed the
starter list of 16 ideas for revenue enhancement, and 9 ideas
for expense reduction, and then invited all members of the town
boards and committees who were present to add to the list today.
“Listen, there are no bad ideas,” he said. “Let’s get every
possible idea out there on the table, we’ll investigate them,
and move on with the ones that make sense.
During the discussion, the list for revenue
enhancement grew to 21 items with a few overlapping, and the
list for expense reduction grew to 11, ranging everywhere from
lobbying the state to repeal the telecom tax exemption, selling
off pieces of Fruit Street property owned by the Town, selling
naming rights to buildings/halls/fields to leasing space for
cell phone towers on the revenue generation side.
On the expense reduction side there were ideas such as
restructuring health insurance premiums, combining services with
neighboring towns, instituting cooperative purchasing,
developing wind and solar power sources, and looking into
reducing litigation expenses.
Put as action items for the next meeting,
now scheduled for Wednesday, September 19th in town hall, were
for team members to research the cost/benefit and timing of
ideas for closing the revenue/expense gap, reconcile the
previous Legacy Farms projections with the internal projections,
re-run utility costs projections using 6% annual increases and
for school business manager, Mr. Geoff MacDonald to explain
budget increases scheduled for FY 2012 and, provide the
projected change in number of school employees so the attendant
benefit packages could be adjusted downward, given the projected
student enrollment decline for the next ten years.
Mr. Totino repeatedly reminded the group of his
earnestness in demonstrating to the public his desire to show
that every idea for both revenue enhancement and expense
reduction had been both explored and properly vetted. Please
forward your sincere idea suggestions for either side directly
to Mr. Totino at