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Suffield Board of Finance Discusses Budgets, Trash Fees

The board held a budget review meeting at the Suffield police station on Monday, March 28.

The weekly budget review meetings continued Monday night as the Suffield Board of Finance heard from several departments at the Suffield Police Station. Hoping to present a zero increase budget to the Town, members discussed several cost-saving measures as well as potential systems for increasing the efficiency of tax collection.

Tax Collector Jill Schechtman proposed an upgrade to the tax-collecting system that would residents to view their account online and give the tax office the ability to accept electronic payment. Members expressed concern about accepting credit card payments, but Schechtman noted that was not part of the proposal, though debit cards might be another alternative.

The added convenience could bring a cost savings, with less spent on collections. She noted that almost everyone was using computers and the Internet.

“I think that's a rash assumption," was the dry response from Board of Finance Chairman Justin Donnelly. "There's a few of us in this room that haven't a clue.”

Assessor Helen Totz said that excepting required spending for education for herself and the assistant assessor, all line items in her budget were less expensive than last year. The grand list is likely to be stagnant with no major increase expected.

The next property re-evaluation will not be a door-to-door assessment, but rather a statistical model which will not cost as much. The re-evaluation is scheduled to take place in 2013.

Several board members sought more statistical information from the police commission, specifically better comparison information with similar towns. Police Chief Mike Manzi reported that crime in Suffield remained basically unchanged despite the pressure of the recession. Suffield consistently ranks in the top ten among municipalities of similar size for lowest crime rate.

The police department is looking to purchase two replacement cruisers. Ford is ending production on the Crown Victoria model and the new standard police vehicle will likely cost $5,000 to $7,000 more than the current cruiser. Switching to a different make of vehicle would be difficult due to compatibility issues with on-board equipment.

Manzi presented the possibility of purchasing two of the older model Crown Victorias if a purchase order could be issued quickly. The Board took no action on the purchase, but would consider using contingency funds if feasible.

First Selectman Tom Frenaye led a discussion about a study of the impact of rolling the trash collection fee into town taxes. Specifically, the study looked at the impact on condominium complexes and the impact on individual taxpayers.

The study revealed a savings for condo associations over their current private collectors' rates and an overall benefit for taxpayers as a whole as reimbursement from the state would yield $180,000 annually. A savings of as much as $10,000 for collections is expected.

Roughly 75 percent of homeowners would see a savings in the amount paid if it were part of the mill rate. The plan would increase the mill rate by two-thirds of a mill in the first year, down to half of a mill in subsequent years after state reimbursements are factored in.

“Towns around us that have municipal trash pick up do it as part of their mill rate,“ Frenaye said.

Action on the trash collection issue is schedule for the next regular Board of Finance meeting on April 11, 2011.

Don Miner April 03, 2011 at 04:51 PM
"Second, do you know the salaries of BOE members?" Board of Education members serve without pay, as do all members of town boards and commissions, with the possible exception of hte Board of Selectmen, who are paid a very nominal stipend. Also, the chairman of the Board of Finance is Justin Donnelly. (Names are important to get right.) He was making a joke about his lack of familiarity with computers, but don't think for a minute that he is clueless about the operations, finances or legal issues of town. On the contrary, he is very knowledgable, and he runs a good meeting without being unpleasant to those who appear before the board.
Sami Mehmed Jr April 03, 2011 at 06:11 PM
Finding the need to apologize again, however the salaries that I intended to reference was not because of serving on the BOE directly. The last superintendent was making $225K before benefits if my memory serves me correctly. I believe that most board members are above the 125K range and the when summed together are close too or exceed the $1 million plateau. Since I cannot locate stored documentation from two years ago, I am going by memory. Yes, by memory, stated clearly. However, I will attempt to re-secure this information as soon as contracts are finalized, since the suffieldstayengaged.net web site died the information died with it. Please not that I have asked the boards to publish , (i.e. Fire truck evaluation .. refurbish vs new), specific information in response to my blogs, (haven't seen any and will not hold my breath), so I'll ask the BOE to publish their salaries on the Patch in order to correct my memory. As to Mr Justin, I am in total agreement with your interpretation so I recommend re-reading the postings. Just wish that Mr. Justin would depend a little heavier on Brain K's evaluations. Okay, I performed a spell check, didn't attempt to spell Brains last name and attempted to check my grammer. Moving on. I support my local police force.
Cheryl Doran April 04, 2011 at 12:59 AM
Sami- I don't think you have anything to apologize for. You don't need to have a perfect memory or perfect composition skills to be a concerned citizen. It's good for everyone to voice their opinions and yours are always interesting to read.
Jbreen April 04, 2011 at 11:37 AM
Sami, you have nothing to apologize for. This is not a quiz and I'm sure Mr. Minor at one time got a name incorrect. There are bigger things in life to be concerned over. Like you, when the whole superintendant scandal came out I too was suprised to find out that our Superintendant was making with benefits well over a quarter of a million dollars per year. The governor of the State of Connecticut makes $150,000 per year. According to this website http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=School_Superintendent/Salary the average superintendant on the high side makes around $150,000 per year. I also notice that the Superintendant of Schools in Hartford makes $200,000 per year....Really? did our past superintendant of schools have a greater challenge with our 2500 or so students copmpared to Hartford's 25,000 student population. On a more positive note, I see that Suffield has posted the new superintendant's salary expectations lower than past superintendants... Kudos for that ! http://www.capss.org/page.cfm?p=386.
Sami Mehmed Jr April 04, 2011 at 02:13 PM
Jbreen, you have to teach how to conduct research.

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