The Suffield Board of Finance continued to deal with the financial after-effects of the destructive, late fall snowstorm. After appropriating more than $1 million for storm cleanup from emergency funds, the board discussed the likely timeline for reimbursement from FEMA and possible shortfalls in the budget with winter fast approaching.
First Selectman Ed McAnaney reported on the continuing clean-up efforts, noting that most brush and debris had been cleared. He also said Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) has provided two crews for eliminating dangerous limbs near power-lines. Town crews are still working on tree and brush removal.
The town is still processing the paperwork needed to make a claim for FEMA emergency reimbursement funds. The federal government has promised a reimbursement of 75 percent of total cleanup and damage costs. While the town is still calculating the costs from the storm, they are not behind on filing the request because FEMA has not yet begun accepting the claims from the storm.
“They are just not ready for it yet, they've been flooded with requests,” McAnaney said.
A reimbursement from FEMA is not expected for several months to a year after paperwork is filed. It was noted that funds promised for emergency disaster relief from the serious Jan. 2011 snowstorm are just beginning to be repaid.
“I would anticipate based on what I've learned – I would say about a year,” McAnaney said. “During that period we will be without that money, our payment obligations would not go away.”
An anticipated shortfall of $76,000 is expected in addition to the $1,066,000 already authorized for emergency expenses. McAnaney said they are currently working within departmental budgets to pay for the expenditures that may come before the board of finance for a transfer from contingency funds. A transfer of that size would require approval from a town meeting. Many departments, including the highway department, may run into issues if snow removal costs in the winer further stress their budgets.
“We need to pray for no snow,” said Suffield Board of Finance Chairman Justin Donnelly.
McAnaney suggested that future emergency contracts be awarded by the town rather than relying on state-sponsored contractors. He said that towns that did their own hiring of emergency clean-up crews realized significant savings over the state crews. He suggested perhaps a saving of 25 percent might have been possible. He did not criticize the decision of the prior administration, saying they were reacting to an emergency and doing an expeditious job under enormous pressure.
The board decided to table a request for an increase in non-union salaries proposed by the Suffield Board of Selectmen. The increase would represent a $43,000 addition to the budget. The 2.5 percent raise would be in line with the increase negotiated with union employees in the town. Some thirty town employees would be subject to the raise should the board vote to grant it, including the first selectman.