There may or may not be a Cohasset Special Town Meeting this fall
The board majority, Cohasset Selectmen Chair Fred Koed, Martha Gjesteby, clerk and Karen Quigley say their reasons for not wanting a special town meeting are:
1.The town does not need a special town meeting to deal with cherry sheet money. The cherry sheet money (approximately $437,000 is estimated) hasn’t even arrived. When it does, as Cohasset Select Chair Fred Koed pointed out, a portion of it rolls over to Free Cash on July 1.
2.No town board appears to need a special.
3.There don’t seem to be any unpaid bills.
4.The board has a lot on its plate over these next two months. It will be scheduling extra meetings to interview a permanent town manager. Koed suggested the board get through the next two months and then relook at a special if needed, in February. Or perhaps a special within the annual.
5. Dept. of Revenue Chief Jerry Perry said there are four options and the act up town manager only gave the board one option in his Mariner commentary.
Select vice chair Diane Kennedy, Selectmen Steve Gaumer and act-up town manager Mike Milanoski say a special meeting is needed.
- If we do nothing (not direct cherry sheet funds) we have to lower our levy capacity, Milanoski said.
- Gaumer said it was a voted policy of the board, under cash investment policies, and that were the board not to apply these funds the town would lose 2 ½ percent spending power, a loss of $15,000. Gaumer said the alternative would be to put it all in the town’s OPEB fund and make 7%.
- Milanoski said if the money is not directed now it would not be available until the following year.
Quigley asked: “Don’t we use the cherry sheet bottom line to set the levy? If the cherry sheet includes the extra $437,000, why does that lower the tax rate?”
Koed said none of this is new, the same thing happens with cherry sheet money every year.
Koed said he had asked Milanoski to prepare a memo with all options. He wondered why only one option for a special town meeting went into Milanoski’s Mariner commentary. “Now you’re talking about more options. We need a memo on this. I don’t like it that you’re treating us like little kids. Put it in a memo that we can read over the weekend.”
Milanoski said he did a pretty good job of “righting” the financial ship in town, adding that his advice had paid off very well.
“Let’s do a memo with all of our options. Jerry Perry (Dept. of Revenue) says there are four options,” Koed said, one being a reduced taxes option according to Perry. Koed said he wanted to see a calculation, not an argument for a result.
Koed added: “We’re talking about programming stuff into the budget. I’m asking for the analysis. I’m looking for the numbers. You did a full analysis on hiring someone for $50,000 a year. I’d like the calculations on (the surplus), Koed said.
“There are two options. One option has a little twist in it,” Milanoski said, saying the town would lose $30,000 if it waited for annual town meeting to deal with the surplus.
“These payments haven’t come in yet. There’s no guarantee (they will),” Koed said, saying he had difficult time rushing towards a special town meeting on payments we haven’t seen. We do not have cherry sheet money.”
‘Quigley said: “Every time I come here I hear another reason for a special town meeting, like moving goalposts. The story is changing every time. “I cannot come to a decision without something to analyze.”
Milanoski told Quigley she could talk with him about her questions or have a meeting with the town accountant. “We’re the professionals. We know municipal finance,” Milanoski said.
“I’m asking for this information in a format I can understand,” Quigley said, adding that she didn’t need a meeting, just the information.
Koed told Milanoski that the argument for a special town meeting was a policy decision for the board of selectmen to make. He wondered why Milanoski had written a commentary about it in the Mariner.
Milanoski ignored the question, saying his plan saved the town money. “If you want to push off the money, fine. We don’t have access to the money until next year.”
Koed suggested a February 2014 special town meeting.
Milanoksi said no, the changes had to be done before the tax rate is set. (Editor’s note: the tax rate must be set sometime before the end of December. According to new Treasurer-Collector Paula Linhares, it should be set by early December.)
“I deal with numbers, not rhetoric,” Gjesteby said.
“I think it’s reasonable that I would ask to see it on an Excel spreadsheet,” Koed said.
Kennedy said she didn’t understand the reluctance to hold a special.
“We have almost six selectmen’s meetings left this year. We went through the Nutting Seminar, where we were told the most important thing we have to deal with is the new town manager,” Koed said. “If the town held a special people are going to throw everything and the kitchen sink into the special. I think we need to focus on the town manager.” Looking at Gaumer, Koed said: “Are you making faces, Steve?”
“If I hear you correctly, you are saying let’s not call a special town meeting because someone is going to want to speak up,” Gaumer said.
Koed said he wanted to prioritize what’s on the selectmen’s plate right now.
Gjesteby said she was told there were several citizens’ petitions waiting for a special town meeting.
When questioned as to what they were, Gjesteby demurred.
(The rumors around town are that a group of citizens want to petition town meeting to recall the selectmen, want to reduce selectmen’s terms from 3 to 2 years, and want to petition town meeting to hire Mike Milanoski as permanent town manager.)
Gaumer said “You can’t lay it out there and treat it as a secret.” He added that if the town didn’t acquiesce to a special and direct the free cash the town could be downgraded on bonds outstanding. “We are rated every six months.”
Kennedy said the most important thing was for the town to take care of its financial household. “I have the bandwidth to deal with the town manager and the financial issues – all of it. I don’t understand the reason not to do this.”
Milanoski noted other items for a special town meeting. “The treasurer -collector needs to adopt some laws; the town’s need for an Human Resource (HR) person, a bylaw change for HR. The water commission might need some money out of its retained earnings.””
Koed said all of the above should be at the annual meeting.
Quigley told Milanoski he should include all that information his upcoming report to selectmen.
The question of the need for a special town meeting will be an agenda item on selectmen’s meeting next week, along with an Excel sheet showing options for free cash.