Contingency spending? It’s things that come up
Tree work, parking, studies and plans — it’s all part of the town’s $62,000 contingency spending budget.
“It used to be $650,000 when I was on the Board of Selectmen, years ago, in the ’90s,” said First Selectman Rudy Marconi. “That was changed. We reduced it to the level it’s at now ...
“$650,000 was an awfully large blank check,” Marconi added.
The first selectmen suspects that some of constituents might feel that $62,000 is still too large of a sum.
“It is never abused or used for anything unnecessary,” he told The Press. “Some years we don’t use it. Other years it’s been a great resource.
“For example, people are telling us we have to take a tree down, we need to verify property lines,” Marconi said. “...We have to hire a surveyor to do that.”
Occasionally recurring expenses may come out of the contingency if they’re not predictable enough amount to justify a regular budget item.
“I don’t want to put in line item ‘just in case’ — that’s how budgets get built to unrealistic levels,” Marconi said.
Although there are exceptions, generally the selectmen don’t use contingency until later in the fiscal year.
“Our policy on Board of Selectmen is we don’t like to use it until we know the snow budget is in line, and we can cover it,” Marconi said. “Usually we don’t like to spend it prior to the end of winter — unless it’s deemed necessary, and that’s a full Board of Selectmen discussion.”
Even the Board of Finance — which approves the selectmen’s contingency account as part of the budget each year — wondered. Michael Raduazzo brought it up in August, and Controller Kevin Redmond gave a report at the board’s next meeting, Sept. 19, on three years of contingency account spending.
Each of the last three years the contingency account has totaled $61,200 and been mostly — but not completely — spent.
In 2016-17, $60,500 was spent from the account. This included $42,900 on site development at the Schlumberger property. A $14,000 item that labeled “retail development” went to SCRE Advisors Penny Wickey and Laure Aubuchon for follow up work to the two-part study of retail in town they done And $2,300 went for a preliminary site study of potential expansion of the Governor Street parking lot to town land behind the Casey Energy depot.
In 2015-16, contingency spending totalled $44,708. The largest item was $21,537 on emergency tree work. The town also spent $3,924 to equip two meeting rooms with audio systems — microphones, amplifiers, earphones — needed for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), after a complaint had been filed. There was $14,000 spent on the second part of a retail study form the SCRE Advisers. And $3,000 went for secretarial services (meeting stenography) for the Schlumberger Study Committee.
In 2014-15, contingency expenses totalled $60,943. The top item was $35,000 for the Schlumberger Committee, which covered the consultants helping with its online surveys, public hearings and the reports to the public generated from them. Other contingency expenses were $11,473 for a survey of parking needs and another $12,000 for the first half of the study by SCRE Advisors retail study.
The finance board didn’t object to any spending, although Chairman Dave Ulmer didn’t like the idea of allocating money without specifics on how it would be spent.
“I don’t like contingencies,” Ulmer said.
“There aren’t really any of these items that are recurring,” Redmond said, “that we would build into the budget.”