Cohasset Advisor Chief calls town’s draft budget a de facto override

Advisory chair Peter Pescatore has been upset for some time about the $800,000 former acting town manager Mike Milanoski willed to the schools and the $500,000 he put into the town’s budget. Pescatore said Milanoski did it to tie the new town manager’s hands.

Cohasset pundits surmise that Milanoski did it to create an issue for annual town elections and bring parents to the voting booth for candidates supporting the schools. Some say Carver Town Administrator Mike Milanoksi may run for Cohasset selectman himself. It is noted that the selectmen’s 1/21/14 agenda does not include any executive or public session to discuss a paid consultant’s contract for Milanosk, a months-long issue on the board of selectmen.

Pescatore said a Milanoski draft budget ran in the Cohasset Mariner but no one else (advisory, capital budget, budget planning, selectmen) in town government had seen it. Apparently, he took it with him when he left.

“There’s been a rollback two years in a row. I don’t see how we can expect to put that into a department base with a straight face. The new town manager is probably seeing this for the first time” Pescatore said. In a private conversation with Unleashed he said the $1.3 million in excess funds amounted to a de facto override and was unnecessary.

School Superintendent Barbara Caltado said she needed the $800,000 and wondered if Pescatore had done a spreadsheet for the town like he had done for the schools.

“The town turns money back. I don’t need a bar code for the town. You’ re making a case you need $800,000. My graph shows (your) numbers. I just question the magnitude of dollars you are spending in the last three months of the year,” Pescatore said.

Further, Pescatore noted that the budget was a 7 percent increase and there was going to be $180,000 left, not the $400,000 Milanoski predicted. He aid it looked odd when everything was budgeted to 7 percent then it came in under 1 percent.

Town Accountant Mary Gallagher suggested unemployment might be a problem.

Pescatore said he thought the preliminary budget needed to be scrutinized. Overall, he said the town departments look to be in pretty good shape. His concern is that in 2013 the $760,000 in available funds were split $463,000 for the schools and $296,000 for the town, and the town rolled back a total of $400,000 from all sources to free cash. In 2014 the school’s share was $608,000 and town $237,000. In 2015 the preliminary numbers are doubled, for both the schools and the town.  

 Pescatore feels this excess money should be put in Other Post Employment Benefit (OPEB), and infrastructure (roads). He recommended that the money be pulled out of the capital schedule and put into the budget for snow and ice., saying it should be in the vicinity of $200,000. Milanoski had budgeted $10,000.  He also noted that it was unrealistic to expect a repeat of the extra funding the state provided last year. “One could say that is akin to one time money.”

Mary Snow, DPW Administrative Assistant at Town of Cohasset, said there was a preliminary list of streets that ha been earmarked for work. “Some of the Chapter 90 money earmarked to do that.” She added that many of the streets needed to be dug up, and not just asphalted

Advisors Tom Reardon and George Chamillard disagreed with Pescatore.

But Pescatore noted that the guidelines were set last September. “This budget hasn’t been discussed at all. “I guess it falls within guidelines, but I don’t know. It’s not consistent with the way the Town’s money has been spent.  Have there been any complaints about lack of services?”

Again, Pescatore complained that $500,000 had been budgeted for the town when he only knew of one new permanent position, the HR position. He said he was not sure if that was a full time or a shared position. “The unions are all at two percent increase. Where’s the beef?”

Chamillard argued that the numbers were consistent. “The prior year surplus haven’t been netted out.”

Pescatore argued that once the $1.3 M was n the base it would be there forever.”

Vice chair Nan Roth wondered why everybody (schools and town) was doubling their budgets from the previous years.

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According to Pescatore, the schools showed only a 17-person increase from the previous year.

Caltado said the schools had worked hard, saying some of the reasons for the money would be that the state is now requiring the schools to administer state testing by computer, but then noted that Cohasset was not required to do computer testing this year due to its small size.

Pescatore countered that the town had already provided $600,000 for computers.

Caltado argued the schools needed to increase per pupil spending.

Roth said she would like to see what the schools having an extra $800,000 in its budget would look like in a spreadsheet going forward.

“Are you suggesting that we are overspending our budget?” Caltado asked?

‘You’re spending right to the penny,” Pescatore said.

When Caltado said that the money goes into pre-spending for the following year, and this was an historical expense, advisor Bob Benson said: “Your budget is not true.”

Caltado then mentioned the uncertainty of special education students and their unbudgeted requirements, saying she had been doing this job for 34 years.

“How can you be short of money if you’re spending it on capital? You have a capital appropriation from town, this is above that budget,” Pescatore pointed out.

Caltado returned to the special education budget, but did not offer any specifics.

Town Manager Chris Senior said he needed three weeks to review the budget, pointing out, to laughter, that he had only been in town for 14 hours.

“This is about fiscal responsibility. If the schools think it needs more money, they can do an override or come to annual or special town meeting and get an amendment to their budget allocation. There are ways to do this to keep the money out of the tax base,” Pescatore said.

© Copyright 2014 Tanna Bk, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed
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