07/16/2009

By Kara Herlihy

Members of the Moretown Capital Budget Committee are seeking feedback from select board members following their presentation of a capital budget and capital improvement plan for the town. The board met to discuss the project on July 13.

Per the recommendation of the planning commission, the capital budget committee was formed with the intention of creating a long-term budget for capital improvement expenditures.

Using the Waitsfield and Pittsfield capital budgets as a guide, committee member Don LaRocca said the objective is to define capital budget and a capital improvement program as well as the policies that drive the document.

TWENTY-YEAR FORECAST

The purpose of a capital improvement plan, as outlined in LaRocca's presentation, "provides a rolling 20-year forecast of recurring capital project expenditures of $1,000 or more and the corresponding financial justification."

A capital budget is an adjunct to the town's annual budget, according to LaRocca, and would address expenditures that are outside the town's general maintenance. Select board chair Rae Washburn asked whether road expenditures would be included in a capital budget.

LaRocca said customary maintenance like grading would not be included in the capital budget, but the repair or replacement of the town grader or the upgrade or improvement of the road would fall under the capital budget.

DEFINING BUDGET ITEM

The committee needs the feedback and approval of the town in order to move forward with the plan, LaRocca said, which includes establishing an expenditure threshold and defining capital budget items.

Select board members were asked to review the plan and approve the structure as well as provide feedback on the policy statement that will determine how projects are prioritized.

In addition, LaRocca said a project prioritization committee will need to be formed in order to avoid politicizing the process and prevent favoritism. Each town department will be given two forms that require them to summarize as well as justify their specific improvement request.

The draft reads, "These policies establish the process to prioritize projects before entering the CIP. Prioritization is necessary to insure the project's comparative merit, need, affordability and community support. Ranking of a project in accordance with a set of policies helps to insure it serves the greater community process."

HIGHEST PRIORITY

State or federally mandated projects receive the highest priority, as do projects that are essential to health and safety, or those that result in savings in operating costs and or general self-supporting revenue.

Select board member David Van Deusen said the idea is "really impressive" and asked for the committee's timeline for the budget and plan's completion. LaRocca said depending upon when the town returns with feedback, the plan will be complete by Town Meeting 2010.

LaRocca said the committee plans to give the same presentation to the fire department, road crew and library.

REVIEW THE PLAN

Moretown resident Hoover Austin commended committee members for their efforts and said, "You guys have done a really good job. This has been sorely needed for a long time."

Select board member Stephanie Venema referenced the Town Hall as a "perfect example" of the need for a capital improvement plan. "The Town Hall was renovated in the 1980s and there's been no work since; now look at what we're faced with," she said.

Town officials said they will review the plan and invite the committee to return to the select board in August to gather feedback and address any major flaws.

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