Town of Halifax, Vermont
Selectborad Meeting Minutes
July 6, 2021
CALL TO ORDER:
Lewis Sumner called the meeting to order at 7:00 P.M. Selectboard members present were Peter Silverberg, Bradley Rafus, Cara Cheyette, & Tristan Roberts on speaker phone. Also present were Tina Blais, Patricia Dow, Ray Combs, Edee Edwards, Linda Lyon, & David Jones.
CHANGES OR ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA:
Sumner asked if there were any changes or additions to the agenda. Cheyette stated that she would like to raise a point of order concerning the process in mechanics of tonight’s meeting not about any substance of any of our agenda items. She expresses concern over there not being any notification prior to the agenda that there would not be a remote option for the meeting. Cheyette states that she does not believe the Board has any legal obligation to hold remote meetings so it is not like it has been illegally warned but she does feel as though it is an improperly warned meeting. She states that she thinks people had an expectation to have a remote option and thinks it reflects poorly on the Board to have that option disappear without discussion. Cheyette states that she would like to move that the meeting adjourn and re warn it as soon as possible with a remote option. Cheyette’s only concern it that there are a few items on the agenda that are time sensitive such as the CPA bids. Cheyette made a motion for the sake of public transparency that the board re warn the meeting with a remote option where the Board will take up all the other agenda items, but in the interest of the town, the Board should continue moving forward with the CPA bids at this meeting as it is time sensitive. Sumner stated that the tax rate needed to be set as well. Cheyette asked if it could wait a week, Sumner stated that it would be more than a week and it takes Patty a lot of time to get the tax bills printed and mailed out.
Roberts asked for clarification on the motion he was questioning whether the CPA bibs were going to be talked about tonight or put off. Cheyette replied that they would be discussed tonight. She explained that Patty Dow pointed out to her and Silverberg that one, we are in a new FY, second, the voters voted on this so we need to get it done, and thirdly, one of the bids that we received had an expiration date. It was dated May 25, 2021 and was only valid for 30 days. Cheyette stated that she reached out to both bidders last week and let them know that the board was going to be voting on them on July 6, 2021, will their bids still be good and they both stated that yes their bids would still be valid. Cheyette clarifies that her motion was to just address the most pressing issues and hold the rest. And re warn the meeting for as soon as possible. Silverberg states that we have a motion, does it need to be seconded? He states that he sees three things, the Tax Rate, the CPA Audit, and the COVID Clinic. Sumner states that he feels as though they should move forward with the meeting because it was warned property. Roberts states that he is not hearing much disagreement among them for discussing how they meet. He agrees with Cara.
Roberts amended the motion to state: to discuss only the time sensitive items on the agenda. The CPA Audit, set the Tax Rate, and the COVID Clinic and reschedule the meeting for as soon as possible. Silverberg asks if the meeting gets re warned will that be with the remote option. Cheyette states that David Jones agreed to run the technology a single time. Rafus asked when the thought process changed as to when they were going to stop remote meetings. He was under the impression that they would continue until the board discussed it at a meeting. The topic of remote meetings and meeting twice a month got tabled at the last regular meeting and he thought everything would stay the same until discussed and voted on. He states he did not pick up on the agenda that there was no remote information until he saw people’s emails questioning it. Sumner stated that Paul Blais’ mother broke her leg and he was taking care of her out of state and not able to do the remote part of the meeting. Cheyette stated that they still had an obligation to the town. The board was in agreement that they did not notice that on the agenda there was no phone in number and that they all believe that remote meetings need to be discussed in a remote meeting so the public can be a part of the discussion. Silverberg suggests that they should talk about meeting every two weeks because they have to pick a date to re warn the rest of this meeting and that could be the next meeting date. Cheyette made a motion to adjust the agenda with only the three time sensitive items they have identified Setting the tax rate, The CPA Audit & the COVID mobile clinic and to adjourn and decide on a time to re warn the meeting. Silverberg seconded the motion. Sumner read the motion again and asked if there was any discussion. Rafus stated that they should discuss whether they are going to meet twice a month because that meeting could be the next meeting with remote call in options with no conflict of interests with any other meetings that may be going on. His opinion is that they need to go back to two meetings a month. Cheyette agreed. Rafus suggests setting time frame for the remote meetings at the next meeting like a 60 day period or something like that. That way everybody not just the five people on the board have an idea as to when to stop it. Sumner stated that the motion was now to address only the three time sensitive items on the agenda, The CPA Audit, Setting the tax rate, & the COVID Mobile Clinic & that the rest of this meeting will be re warned for July 20, 2021. Motion passed 5-0.
Jones said that Cheyette mentioned his name as a possible facilitator for the remote option. He states that he was a facilitator in the past and the atmosphere at the time was quite contentious and the results we not so great and Go To Meeting may not have the same types of controls that Paul Blais has been using with Google Meets. Jones recommendation is that they should continue with Google Meets. But if they wanted he would be willing to use Go To Meeting to do it. Silverberg volunteered to run Google Meets for the next meeting. He states he will not be the moderator but will try and make the mechanics work.
APPROVAL OF PREVIOUS MEEING MINUTES:
Held until July 20, 2021 meeting.
Sumner announced that the new tax rates had been set for the year. The new Total Homestead Tax Rate is 2.5468, & The Non-Residential Tax Rate is 2.6409. Sumner explained that there were two audits that needed to happen and there was only enough money budgeted for one because in the article from the towns people there were no dollar amounts when voted on. Dow provided clarification as to what Sumner means. She explains that in order to set the tax rate they need to make sure the figures are right. What Lewis is saying is that in the Town Meeting in March there were two Articles talking about the audit. Number six was the one that the Selectboard would put in $15,000 for a CPA audit. Article Seven was the one that eliminated the town Auditors and having the CPA audit done by going back to FY 2020 with no dollar amount. The Board cannot just add a dollar amount in for Article Seven. For both articles we need to Audit FY 20 and go backwards from there even though the elected Auditors already did that work the article wants FY 20 to be redone at the $15,000. We also need to have FY 21 audited according to the article which makes it an additional $15,000 needed. The town is short considerable depending on which Audit CPA firm you use, states Dow. There are a few options the board has. (1) You can get a loan. (2) You can have a Special Election. (3) You can find it within the current budget. Discussion ensued about the options. Dow explains that whichever option the board decides to pick will not affect the tax rate. Dow states that there is no choice FY 20 & FY 21 need to be audited. You are looking at a cost from one firm for $26,815 and the other firm would be $40,400. Cheyette asks Dow if setting the tax rate is dependent on which firm they choose. Dow explains that there is no flexibility in setting the tax rate. More discussion ensued about clarification that the firm they choose does not affect the tax rate. Dow reiterated that the tax rate would stay the same. Dow asked if there were any questions on how the tax rate was set. Rafus asked how the Grand List was, compared to last year. Dow stated that the Grand List went down 3% overall. Discussion ensues. Sumner made a motion to accept the new tax rates; Municipal Tax Rate of 1.1019, School Tax – Homestead rate of 1.4387, School Tax Non-Residential Rate of 1.5328. Leaving a final total of Homestead tax rate of 2.5468 and the Non-Residential tax rate at 2.6409. Rafus 2nd. Motion passed 5-0.
Sumner moved on to the CPA audit explaining that the board received two bids one $14,000 & the other for $20,000 and the audit needs to be done by FY 21 so a copy of last year’s budget can go in the Town Report in March. Dow explained the two bids. Sullivan & Powers came in pretty much the same for a five year term. They did a five year bid of $20,000 for the first year auditing FY 20. Then the cost for FY 21 at $20,400 and it went up respectfully. Batchelder & Associates actually sent in a bid for six years, thru 2025. For FY 20 the cost would be $14,000 and the second year for FY 21 would be $12,815.
Cheyette explained that she & Silverberg met with Dow and did some continued research, and checked references for both firms. Discussion followed. Cheyette determined that they were both very qualified firms and it came down to what the board decided. Silverberg agreed with Cheyette. Sumner stated that he also talked with both firms before the bids and explained to them that this would be just for the two years as it is not certain if the town will keep the audits with an outside firm.
Sumner asked if there was any other discussion, hearing none Sumner made a motion to except Bonnie Batchelder’s bid. Rafus 2nd the motion. Motion passed 5-0
Silverberg states that he was contacted by someone from the VT Dept. of Health about possibly having a Mobile Clinic in Halifax. He states that the State is not going to be doing the clinics anymore so they have contracted Rescue INC, they have trailers all set up all you have to do is arrange a date with Rescue to come out and to get the word out as to when it is going to be. Discussion followed about a time and place. Linda Lyon offered to do all the PR for the event. Silverberg made a motion to have Rescue Inc. come to town with a COVID Mobil Vaccine Clinic and to pick a date. Cheyette 2nd the motion. Motion passed 5-0.
HARING OF VISITORS:
Adjournment: Rafus made a motion to adjourn, Silverberg seconded the motion. Motion passed 5-0. Meeting adjourned at 7:55 P.M.
Respectfully Submitted By:
Secretary to the Selectboard