Town of Halifax, Vermont
December 29, 2020


Call to Order

The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Mitchell Green, and Bradley Rafus, and Moderator Paul Blais, were present. Linda Lyon, Everett Wilson, Rhonda Ashcraft, Peggy Rafus, Tina Blais, Stephan Chait, Douglas Parkhurst, Marilou Parkhurst, Cara Cheyette, Bob Teree, Marketa Psenickova, Patrick Eck, and Marilyn Allen attended by teleconference. Robbin Gabriel was also present.

Lewis Sumner opened the meeting, and Moderator Paul Blais reviewed call-control features and meeting procedures, and advised the sole business of this meeting was discussion of the proposed FY22 highway budget. Blais requested attendees to hold their questions and comments until the Selectboard completed line item review, and hold commentary on other topics until the next regularly scheduled Selectboard meeting.

Changes and/or Additions to Agenda


 New Business

FY22 Budget Preparation
Brad Rafus advised that for discussion of the highway proposed budget line items he would recuse himself as a Selectboard member and speak as Road Commissioner. The Board first considered wages, increasing gross regular time wages by $6,333 and gross overtime by $18,118 over the previous year. Rafus said that we have exceeded the overtime budget in each of the past four years; the proposed overtime total for FY22 is in line with actual expenditures. Our formula for computing overtime used to be 150 hours per employee, said Rafus, but the last three years it has been between 225 and 260 hours. The total employee benefits and costs category is $7,400 more than FY21, with the increases in health insurance and retirement, and slight reductions in training and uniform costs. Garage expenses total $22,400, with increases for electricity and trash collection and reductions for heating oil, building repairs, and cleaning supplies.

The Road Supplies and Applications section of the budget is revised for FY22; individual line items now show costs for sand, salt, gravel, and stone, with the cost of trucking those materials shown separately. Total materials and trucking costs will be appreciably higher in FY22, as the Town has depleted its on-site gravel supply, will not be crushing, and all materials will have to be purchased and trucked in from other sources. Rafus explained the budgeted trucking amount, saying the town buys 4,000 yards of sand, half we truck ourselves and half is hauled by outside contractors, at a cost of $22,000. Gravel is computed as 3,400 yards hauled by the town, 6,600 yards by outside contractors, for a total of 10,000 yards, $72,600.

The resurfacing budget is $160,000, and the planned projects are aa portion of Green River Road and re-shimming at least half of Brook Road. Rafus said State Class 2 and structures grants have been suspended for the coming year. The culvert expense line was increased by $2,000 to cover replacement of eight culverts on Green River Road. The equipment lease budget includes the final year payment on the grader, plus $98,000 in lease payments on truck #1, truck #4, and a replacement for the problem leased truck that has spent most of its time in the shop for the last two years, with repairs costing between $60-$70,000. A further breakdown of equipment operating costs is included in the FY22 budget sheets, showing separate costs of tires, chains, plow/grader edges, as well as general maintenance expenses and diesel fuel. The proposed amounts have been increased to more closely match actual costs for the past several years. The Town has one more year on the garage bond payment, $10,500, including interest. Both the Selectboard and Highway budgets will be finalized once a few additional numbers are received.

Paul Blais now invited questions and comments from attendees. Bob Teree was first, but could not be heard due to technical difficulties. Blais posed several questions of his own. Does the Town solicit heating fuel bids? Yes, said the Board. They also confirmed that this year marks the first time trucking expense has been listed separately from materials costs, and the projected total is higher for the coming fiscal year. Could the estimated repair expenses be less if the problem truck is replaced, asked Blais. Green and Blais said that wouldn’t happen for another year.

Cara Cheyette asked why the budgeted amount for gravel had jumped significantly even though that line item no longer contains trucking costs. In FY19 and FY20, answered Rafus, we crushed gravel at the Town Garage, at $5.73 per yard. Now that we have to buy it, it’s $12.50 a yard, and I estimated 10,000 yards at $13.00 a yard, because I know it’s going up; that’s the $130,000 figure. Green added that no trucking costs were incurred when we were crushing at the Town Garage, but the proposed FY22 budget includes trucking for the full amount of gravel. Cheyette also asked what was included in the $5,000 line item for building repairs and maintenance, and what was the difference between the $7,000 “shop supplies” and the $500 “shop supplies and tools” line items. The shop supplies category includes miscellaneous items such as shop rag service, bolts, nuts, wire terminals, anything we use on the trucks, said Rafus. The tools budget covers any specialty tools we might need. Building maintenance covers things such as last year’s heating fuel tank replacement, bay door maintenance, the LED lights we had installed a few years ago, or service on the water filtration system—general building maintenance costs.

Bob Teree estimated the proposed highway budget was 21% higher than the previous budget; he asked what accounted for that increase. Paul Blais noted the largest increase is the gravel line item. Last year, said Rafus, we had a $160,000 shortfall. Maintenance costs are also much higher now, and demand is greater, which means more sand, salt, gravel, and overtime hours. We probably should have begun raising those budgets five to seven years ago. Teree asked why we don’t have actual expenditures for FY21. We are in FY21 now, Blais responded. FY20 closed on June 30, 2020, and FY21 will close on June 30, 2021. Are we planning to set aside $15-$18,000 for an independent audit next year, asked Teree. Blais advised that topic was not germane to tonight’s discussion; it had been covered at the last meeting (December 15th) and details could be reviewed in the meeting minutes. Blais noted that while he had explained the purpose of tonight’s meeting on opening, Teree called in a little later and may have missed that statement.


 Green made a motion to adjourn at 7:53 p.m. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.

 Respectfully submitted,
Robbin Gabriel
Selectboard Secretary