Paris sets special town meeting to allocate funds

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PARIS — When voters head to next week’s special town meeting, they will weigh in on authorizing overdraft spending and allocating surplus funds to contingency and reserve accounts.

The special town meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9, at the Paris Town Office, 33 Market Square. This is scheduled before the regular selectmen’s meeting at 7 p.m.

The first financial article asks voters to use $168,319 from surplus to cover town accounts for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016. There is normally an article on the June annual town meeting warrant that asks for such authorization, but it was inadvertently left off the 2016 warrant. Selectmen and the Budget Committee recommend this article.

Town Manager Vic Hodgkins recently said the overdrafts have already been paid since the fiscal year came to a close over the summer. Overdrafts include two police officers out on worker’s compensation, wages, contributions to the state retirement system and lien filings in administration, 53 payroll periods instead of 52, solid waste costing more than what was anticipated, attorney fees, insurance rate increases, and more tax abatements than normal.

If voters opt to not fund the overdrafts that have been already paid, members of the selectboard at the time could be on the hook to pay for them, if the issue is pressed in court. That selectboard includes current chair Janet Jamison, Hodgkins, who was selectman before being appointed town manager, and former selectmen Mike Risica, Sam Elliot and Robert Wessels. Hodgkins said he expected “reasonable minds to prevail” and for voters to authorize of the overdrafts.

The other two financial articles ask to appropriate $35,000 from surplus to the unclassified Contingency Account and $40,921 from surplus to the General Reserve Account. Selectmen and the Budget Committee recommend both articles.

In May 2016, selectmen voted to allocate $93,840 from the undesignated fund balance to make a $17,919 interest payment on a bond loan for the Fire Station and to add the remaining money to contingency and reserves. It was discovered during the town’s financial audit the money was never moved since it is surplus and it requires voter approval.

The bond interest payment has already been paid and is not on the special town meeting warrant.

Selectmen voted to move the money at the recommendation of then-Interim Town Manager Sawin Millett because the town’s surplus exceeded the recommended 12 to 15 percent.

Hodgkins advocated for moving the surplus money, especially the $35,000 to contingency. Since selectmen thought the money had been reallocated, only $15,000 was put into contingency this most recent budget cycle. And the majority of that has been spent on back pay for two employees who were not classified correctly and costs associated with the Mildred M. Fox School.

There are other contingency needs for the rest of the fiscal year, including upcoming attorney fees, paying Matt Eddy for his work on the town’s tax increment finance district, potentially bumping Town Clerk Liz Knox’s pay to the federally mandated wage, union contracts, FICA/Medicare payback and unknowns.

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