Board of Finance postpones action on 5-year capital plan
An attempt to get a step ahead of the budget cycle fell short last week after the Board of Finance agreed to table a vote that would recommend a preliminary five-year capital plan.
Budget Director Jennifer Charneski said the five-year outline, which is required by town charter, must be adopted in order for the town to be eligible to receive certain grants. The preliminary plan, which she noted is subject to change, was approved by the Board of Selectmen Nov. 5, but it doesn't need formal approval until the spring.
Board of Finance Chairman and First Selectman Robert Mallozzi said the outline would help keep the capital projects as "a separate conversation."
"We're not approving the budget. We're approving the plan," he noted at the start of the meeting.
In defense of the outline, board member John Sheffield said the plan would work almost as a "priority" list to guide the board and the Town Council through the budget process. The annual budget cycle begins in January with budget request presentations from each town department and the Board of Education and ends in April when the Town Council adopts the budget.
"This declutters the process a little bit," Mallozzi said, noting that it would help prevent departments from adding new requests during the budget process.
However, Neville said she needed more time to analyze the reasons behind the dollars sought by the various departments in town.
"I think this is a huge request of taxpayers' money," she said. "I'd like to hear as to how they arrived at some of these numbers."
Some of the most expensive capital items on the preliminary outline include two $5 million requests the Department of Public Works is seeking for its pavement management program in fiscal years 2017 and 2019; a $3.3 million request for a long-awaited Locust Avenue parking lot expansion, and a $2 million request for a renovation of the police headquarters.
Another issue the board took with the plan was that it does not include the schools' capital requests, which could be higher than all departments. Mallozzi said the Board of Education made a "sincere" effort to submit a capital plan, but the timing did not work out.
Acknowledging the need for more examination of the plan, he suggested tabling it so that the board can focus on the 2015-16 capital requests instead.
"In no way was this meant to be a slam dunk," Mallozzi said. "The last thing I want to do is rush the capital discussion."
Charneski asked the board to spend the next few weeks focusing on the capital requests for 2015-16, the first year on the extended plan, and also the funding sources, such as the annual budget, the town's reserve, bonding or leasing.
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