Bethlehem Board of Selectmen
Bethlehem Selectmen’s Office
October 09, 2017
Present: Chairman Moritz, Selectman Glavac, Selectman Ubaldo, Selectman Moore, Selectman Boisseau.
Chairman Moritz opened the meeting at 6:30 pm.
Debt Service/TAN – Libby Staples and Frank Claffey (Treasurer and Deputy Treasurer) came before the Board to discuss the budget. Mr. Claffey said there may be a reduction in the budget they presented due to the ambulance grant. He explained the bank needs to fix the amortization schedule. He said it would be approx. $100.00. There was discussion about budgeting $10,000.00 for TAN (tax anticipation note) because there are many factors that determine whether or not a TAN will be needed.
Library – Doug Harman (Trustee, Chairman), Len Grubbs (Trustee, Treasurer), and Laura Clerkin (Director) came before the Board to discuss the library budget. Mr. Grubbs explained the increase is due to compensation going up and payroll taxes. He said there is also a slight increase in electricity and propane. Chairman Moritz asked if endowment, fines, and other funds are used to offset the budget. Mr. Grubbs said there is $112,000.00 in the endowment fund and all but 8 ½ to 9 thousand is principal and only the interest can be spent. He said they have 4 – 5 thousand in unanticipated funds from gifts, copier, and non-patron fees. Mr. Grubbs said the friends of the library did a lot of fundraising and have $39,000.00 that they are keeping for a major catastrophe. Mr. Harman said some of the donations are for a specific purpose. He explained the building fund has to go towards the building and long term they will need repairs at some point so it is prudent to put money away for future repairs. Selectman Boisseau asked if they are adding to the fund and was told not since the building was built. Mr. Harman said they did a survey of patrons to see what people would like to see and willing to pay for. He said people want an increase in hours but said they can’t do that. He also said the employees are not paid what they should be paid and said they need to get salaries up. Mr. Harman said the employees also don’t get benefits and will lose employees if they don’t address the low wages. Chairman Moritz asked if they had any other source of income. Mr. Harman said taking donations for late returns generates more revenue then fines. Selectman Boisseau asked about fees for programs and Mr. Harman said they are a free library and want to be free. He said residents are already paying through their taxes and out-of-towners pay a membership fee. Selectman Glavac said the Board did ask for a 5% decrease. He also said in the past when an increase was discussed the Board felt if the budget goes up the taxpayers should get more if paying more so thought the hours should increase. Mr. Harman said they have great employees and that is why the library is so good and said they are increasing the salaries a little at a time. Selectman Glavac said the town has been working on the wage gap as well. Selectman Glavac asked the Board what they want to invest in and said maybe they need to ask each department to present a budget that they need to run their department. He said they put a hiring freeze on the police dept. and didn’t purchase the cameras to save money. Selectman Glavac said it is a nice library and feels it is necessary. Mr. Harman said the town runs lean and runs well and cutting the budget in half won’t solve it. Selectman Glavac said if they start slashing we won’t have good schools, library, and services. Mr. Harman asked if people would want to move to town if services are cut. Selectman Ubaldo asked for clarification on the funds and how many hours the employees work a week (33, 19, 16, 13). Chairman Moritz said we are in a tough position. She said she can see the library is utilized and appreciated but we are trying to be as tight as we can and asked if there is anything that can offset the increase. Ms. Clerkin said they have events that are no cost to them because patrons offer their time and talent. She also said they go after grants. She also said all awards given out for the summer reading program are donated and said books and DVD’s get donated. She said they had 177 programs with 2200 people attending. Selectman Ubaldo asked if there is a fee to use the meeting room and was told no. Chris McGrath said it is time to look at services and said he loves the library but we will be losing revenue and won’t be able to live here if taxes increase. He also said non residents should pay for meeting room. Chairman Moritz asked what % are out of town and was told she isn’t sure because Bone Builders is not in Bethlehem but people in Bethlehem participate. She said they try to be a yes library and be welcoming. Dann said they wouldn’t want to charge people but asked if it is ok to charge taxpayers. He said users should be charged and said if people want it they will pay for it. Sara Plumley (Library Trustee) said she home schools her kids but still pay for school because you pay for all services whether you use them or not. Ms. Clerkin said the library is not a business or money generator. She said it makes a community a better place and provides a service for people who can’t afford it. Selectman Ubaldo said he agrees but is concerned the library is expanding into being more than it should be. Frank Claffey suggested using the non-resident revenue to offset the budget. He was told that could be done. There was discussion about money being given back in the past that wasn’t used. Sally Syren (Library Trustee) said if we nickel and dime the library we will lose quality of staff. She said Bethlehem is thriving and we have an obligation to keep the library going. Nora Clark (Library Trustee) said the library is an asset to the town and provides space for the young and old. Debbie McKinzie (Library Trustee) said she is new to town and picked this town because of the sense of community and feels the library is part of the reason. She said you can’t put a price on what library does. She also said Bethlehem has a gift with the library and the staff we have for it. Selectman Glavac said the library is an asset but can replace the word library with police, fire, etc. He said the Board has asked everyone to look at a 5% reduction and how do we look at other departments about the 5% reduction. He said he agrees we should fund the department the way they should be funded. He asked if the Board has changed their approach to this or do we continue to ask departments to cut 5%. Chairman Moritz said she would still ask them (library) to consider offsetting some of the expenses and continue to work on it. She said it is an exercise and not final. Mr. Harman said he will take it back to the Board and look at it. He said if it is built in the budget they have it but can give money back if they don’t need it. He said if the Board cuts the budget they will take it the deliberative to see what the people want. He also said the school tax rate is what is high.
Street Lights – This budget remains the same at $37,000.00.
The Board reviewed the health insurance rates. There is an increase in the rates of 11.76%. The overall cost for the town will actually be less than last year because not as many employees are on the plan. Selectman Glavac said he has been asking to look at ratio for employee/employer to be what the average is for private businesses which is 80/20. Chairman Moritz said she agrees they should look at that for new hires but doesn’t agree they should do that with current employees and considers that a decrease in pay. Selectman Glavac said having an increase in paycheck for healthcare is how healthcare works. Chairman Moritz asked the Board what they thought about buyouts for employees that opt out of our plan. Selectman Ubaldo said he would have concerns because employees could get a buyout but then can add back in to the plan. He said he doesn’t want the buyout option and to keep the same % at 87/84/82 that the town pays for single/two person/family plans. The Board all agreed to keep the % the same and not offer buyouts. Chairman Moritz said she would like to lower it for new hires and said she will bring it up at the next department head meeting to get input from department heads.
The Board discussed the police cameras that were discussed at the last meeting. Selectman Glavac moved to purchase the police cameras. Selectman Ubaldo seconded. Selectman Glavac said the cameras are used a lot and said they have always invested in safety equipment in the past for the fire and police departments. Chairman Moritz said they currently have 6 cameras that are working but agrees they are needed but wants them in the 2018 budget. Selectman Glavac said they are replaced every 2.5 years because that is what they determine is life of cameras. Selectman Moore said it is not in this year’s budget. Selectman Boisseau asked if they currently have cameras and Chief Ho-Sing-Loy said they are going on 3 years and already have needed repairs. He said there is not a warranty so there is an expense for the repairs. He said the new ones will be under warranty. Selectman Boisseau asked the Chief if the cameras are a priority for the police and was told yes by the Chief. Selectman Ubaldo said this also includes the data storage, clips, tie-ons and everything to make it a functional unit. He said we are already running out of storage on server so storing the data and the warranty are a huge part of it. He calculated the cost of the cameras to be $218.00 per camera per year. Chairman Moritz said she still thinks it needs to be budgeted for. Carried 4-1 (Chairman Moritz opposed).
The Board reviewed the minutes from 10/02/17. Chairman Moritz moved to approve the minutes. Selectman Moore seconded. Carried 3-0 (Selectmen Glavac and Boisseau abstained).
At 7:55 Chairman Moritz moved to go into non-public session per RSA 91A:3 II for matters of personnel and legal. Selectman Glavac seconded. Chairman Moritz did roll call with all members agreeing to go into non-public session.
Dann objected to the non-public session.
The Board discussed personnel. Chairman Moritz moved to increase the wage for the Deputy Town Clerk/Deputy Tax Collector by $1.00 an hour. Selectman Moore seconded. Carried 5-0.
Selectman Ubaldo moved to approve hiring an additional officer. Selectman Boisseau seconded. Carried 5-0.
At 9:00 Chairman Moritz moved to come out of non-public session. Selectman Glavac seconded. Chairman Moritz did roll call with all members agreeing to come out of non-public session.
At 9:00 Selectman Glavac moved to adjourn. Selectman Ubaldo seconded. Carried 5-0.