By Jim Haff, Killington Candidate for Select Board
My plan is to once again get our town back to running the core departments of our municipality, which include highway/roads, recreation, library, fire safety and police. Included in recreation should be maintaining our golf course capital and our swimming pool. Included in the fire safety and police should be addressing the new fire house we’ve been told that we need since the building has been deemed unsafe. This board has not shown any interest of putting an article in front of you, the taxpayers/voters, to address these issues.
We also are still waiting for the missing “chapters” that account for our Irene debt to be included in our town financials. In multiple letters back and forth between me and my opponent and current Select Board Chair Patty McGrath on Irene debt, she admitted that we borrowed money from ourselves and that this board would address reconciling these loans from ourselves in the current budget. Sadly, it is still absent — once again this board has kicked the can down the road. (They’ve also, in the 2015 annual report, have forgotten to account for a $700,000 tax anticipation loan.)
That being said, here we go: my plan.
My plan has always been, and still is, to take care of our finances and the core priorities of running our municipality. For some strange reason my opponent has stated publicly that she feels a selectperson’s job is to look beyond the municipality and take care of the economy. Prioritizing new projects with limited funds, has meant diminished allocations for core municipal functions. Here
- $1,398,551.13 this is cash on hand (page 7, Treasures Report, General Fund Accounts, Balance on hand Dec. 31, 2015)
- $8,452,491.15 is the amount collected as of Dec. 31, 2015, which leaves our town with $6,567,921.95 to be collected by June 30 for our current 18-month budget.
- $7,966,473.08 is what we have if you add what we have on hand and what we still anticipate being collected.
- $6,433,105.81 is our total obligations in debts through Dec. 31, 2015 (according to page 7 adding restricted funds, tax sale escrows, education tax due to the state of Vermont and $700,000 of tax anticipation which seems to be missing from our report.) Not included in this number is the reconciling of Irene debts to ourself, which my opponent stated was around $800,000.
- $1,533,367.27 is what we have left to run our town from Dec. 31, 2015 through June 30, 2016 ($7,966,473.08 minus $6,433,105.81). If we were to reconcile our FEMA debt according to Mrs. McGrath’s number we would have $733,367.27 to run our municipality for six months (Jan.-June).
- The $6,567,921.95 that we still have to collect, includes us receiving full payment from FEMA, which I’m sure is still outstanding and also the amount that they budgeted for the 1 percent option tax, which we all know by now is going to be lower than projected by at least 25 percent.
I don’t believe that this amount is sufficient to run our municipality. Yet, my opponent still wants to take care of the economy. “Moving forward” without properly funding our municipality is irresponsible and will in fact take our town backwards as we will eventually have to face the costs for our current municipal obligations.
It’s no wonder their hands are cuffed; they understand that they don’t have enough money allocated for the future of our municipality’s highway/roads, recreation, library, fire safety and police. Consequently, no articles on this year’s ballot request voters to weigh in on funding town pool renovations, the golf course irrigation system or public safety building.
The above is where we stand now.
If elected, I will (with your help) get us back on track taking care of our core municipality before moving forward with any new projects. I would suggest, and put up for a vote, in an article that property funds all of our priorities over time. As a town we should look at all our needs for the municipality, come up with a figure to support those needs, and then go to a bank and borrow the funds at today’s low interest rates so that we fund 100 percent of town capital plans and will not need to borrow again. I understand that this number could be somewhere around $15 million in total. Here is an example of a breakdown:
- $2 million for the golf course, which includes irrigation and other capital improvements
- $1 million for a new swimming pool
- $3 million for public safety building, which includes a firehouse and police station
- $9 million to get our roads back in order
Currently, we are appropriating $1,257,525 for our capital plans in the current budget. These capital plans truly are not what I call “funding a capital plan,” since I believe that requires looking forward and ahead. The majority of these current allocations are to be used this upcoming year simply for operating costs. I think this is miss leading. My above plan of borrowing $15 million would cost us less than $1 million per year, principal and interest, on a 20 year bond IF done all at once (most likely the bonds would be spread out over multiple years). However, if we did borrow $15 million at once then the cost would still be $257,525 less than what the current Select Board is putting into their so called capital plan. With the $15 million bond we would be able to take care of all of our obligations. Then, I suggest we put the $257,525 left over plus an additional $250,000 above that for a total of approximately $500,000 into future capital so that we can truly fund all future capital plans.
In order to achieve this additional $250,000 I suggest that we stop funding an EDT staff through the town. (We can, and should, continue to sponsor events that outside vendors run such as the Stage Race, Killington Classic, AJGA through our golf course, and Cooler in the Mountain summer concert series.) The two EDT staff work at the visitor center and are truly employees for the KPAA not our town. This move would save over $100,000 between salary and benefits.
For the other $150,000, I once again will say that I think town employees should, like most of us taxpayers, pay health care deductibles and part of their premium. I understand the last time I brought this issue up, my opponent and others turned this issue into “I have no respect for town employees.” I wonder how many voters receive full health benefits from their employers? For those that pay a portion of their own health costs, does it mean they have no respect for you? I don’t think so. Our government is trying to get all people health insurance but it will be at a cost, as most already experience. I have total respect for town employees, but we must get real and treat all the same and not ask taxpayer to foot the bill for benefit they don’t even get.
I understand that some of the employees will probably not vote for me because of my stance on this, but I feel that I need to come forward and let all voters know where I stand and that I will not back down for what I believe is the right choice for us all.
At the same time looking at this budget I recognize under “golf course budget” they are predicting a 1 percent increase in expenses at the same time they are predicting a 7 percent decrease in revenue. Yet, our board feels that our golf pro should receive a 5 percent increase in his salary, which is well above $80,000 for the year. When was the last time any of you voters received this kind of salary increase while business was down? I point out this one because it sticks out, but I believe all municipal employees should be held to minimal increases, at least while our town infrastructure is falling apart. In my mind no one should be receiving any more than a 2 percent cost of living increase.
These changes would add up to all the funds needed to fund a true capital plan that addresses both current and future needs and moves us forward.
After getting our core municipality in place, I do believe that we will be able then to start looking at future projects such as bike trails, streetscapes, gateway project, etc.
Sorry for this long letter, but this is the way it needs to be and I feel the voters deserve to hear a fully transparent plan. When moving forward on any of these ideas, I also pledge to put them up as an article for your vote.
Once again, folks, here I am putting my own money up for my stance. Also, remember I never accepted any stipends from the town for my service on the Select Board. I believe that while a town is financial unsound, and while asking our employees for such considerations that we should lead by example.
If any voter has questions about my proposed plan, I’m always available and happy to discuss it in greater detail. Please call me 802-422-5660 or stop on in at The Butternut Inn. I look forward to serving you once again.