On February 6, members of the Mattapoisett Finance Committee began the process of crafting a fiscal year 2020 budget as they met with members of the Finance Department and the Assessors’ Office.
Before beginning the preliminary overview of Town finances, Town Administrator Michael Gagne shared insights into how the Town is moving towards preparing employees for greater responsibility and opportunity.
“I’ve been looking at more than just salaries and supplies,“ Gagne began. “I’ve been looking at the big picture [with] … employee training and advancement.”
Legacy planning has been very much on Gagne’s radar these past two years as he plans his own retirement in October. But, according to Gagne, this emphasis on preparing critical town hall departments not only for the immediate future, but also for long-range planning, has been embraced by many employees.
Gagne said some employees interested in furthering their education with an eye towards increased responsibility in the future have done “extremely” well. He pointed to employees in the Assessor’s Office who have now been certified by the state, as well as others who have expanded their education in areas of procurement or have fulfilled necessary coursework to maintain certifications.
“We’ve taken education to a higher level,” Gagne said, while acknowledging that he believes the finance departments in Mattapoisett are “outstanding” and that he couldn’t have asked “for a better team.”
Finance Committee Chairman Pat Donoghue asked Gagne if he had considered reestablishing a Human Resources Department. He said he would put that on the agenda for future discussion.
Kathy Costello, administrator of assessing, told the committee that document storage was well underway and essential in protecting legal documents in the event of a flood or other unforeseen disasters. Costello also discussed a possible opportunity for garnering some relief for taxpayers through a process currently under advisement at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR).
Costello said that utilities such as gas and electric are allowed to depreciate or decrease the value of assets running throughout cities and down, all the way down to zero in a very short period of time, which leaves municipalities with no way to capture tax revenue. She explained that Eversource, for instance, is allowed to self-report its value on the estimated $14.5 million infrastructure of gas and electric service in Mattapoisett.
Costello said that the DOR is reviewing this regulatory practice with the Town of Hopkinton leading the way. She cautioned that while her office would be taking on this project, timing was unclear and that cellphone services were not included.
Donoghue then asked about rental properties in Mattapoisett and if Costello was pursuing a way to tax the income earned on rentals.
“There’s going to be an excise tax,” Costello said, adding that legislation is pending.
Currently, the Town does not have a mechanism to tax return income.
Gagne also told the committee that he anticipates a large increase in group health insurance costs, and that all unions would be negotiating new contractors for FY20.
The departments’ operational budgets discussed on this evening while purporting to be level-funded were not complete due to union negotiations that are pending.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Finance Committee for February 12 at 6:00 pm was cancelled due to snow.
Mattapoisett Finance Committee
By Marilou Newell