BELLOWS FALLS -- With the fifth item on the agenda at Tuesday's Rockingham Selectboard meeting, Finance Officer Chip Stearns had "some very sad news."
Stearns said he had previously believed the town's fund balance would rest at zero dollars. He has since learned this will not be the case.
"The reality is our fund balance, as of right now for Fiscal Year 2012, is in the hole $77,800," he told Selectboard members in the Rockingham Town Hall Lower Theatre.
Though the board chose not to explore it, the finance officer explained an option that could bring the balance back up to zero.
"On the last page of your 16 pages, under the highway fund," he said, referring to the informational packets members had received, "you will find, about halfway up that page, a number that says ‘FEMA FY12' for $250,000 that I transferred out of highway into the funds that represent all of our Irene storm damages, revenue and expenses."
Stearns explained Rockingham had too many bills to pay following Tropical Storm Irene, which caused widespread flooding throughout Vermont. Also, the town has not yet been reimbursed by FEMA for the removal of debris.
"I can alter that number down such that the $250,000 contribution from the current FY2012 numbers can be reduced by $100,000," Stearns continued, "and therefore leave us in a positive position as opposed to a negative."
He said this means the town will have to pay for it
"We're basically saying, ‘We'll borrow our deficit for a year.' But we're borrowing from ourselves," Stearns explained.
When Selectboard Chairman Tom MacPhee asked why any members might not want to do that, Stearns said the board has two choices -- pay now or pay later. He also explained that FEMA monies and insurance money are not included in the funds he mentioned.
"In the end, we will still have to contribute more toward the storm damage and right now it is such a tenuous string that we are pulling on to try to get insurance money and FEMA money and the entire issue of debris removal paid for," he said. "All we can do is really an accounting move to eliminate the deficit from being reported now. The contribution for next year, of $100,000, has already been booked for the fiscal year that we're in now and we may very well have to up that number anyway."
Stearns said he felt it was the best choice and MacPhee said it made sense. But other Selectboard members, like Stefan Golec, however, had some hesitations about it.
"It makes some sense but at some time it's going to be time to pay the piper and it's going to be involved in the tax rate," Golec said.
In other business:
-- Selectboard members agreed to go ahead with the conversion of all remaining town streetlights to LED lights.
Mike Ghia, chairman of the Rockingham Conservation Commission, said this will not cost taxpayers anything because Efficiency Vermont has agreed to pay all of Green Mountain Power's undepreciated costs.
GMP, Ghia said in a telephone interview on Wednesday, will buy the new LED light fixtures and take care of all labor costs pertaining to the replacement. Ghia said the removal of a bunch of streetlights in 2010 has saved the town $18,000 a year since, and another $3,000 will be saved by the ensuing conversion to LED.
-- The Selectboard voted to adopt the Town of Rockingham Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan.
-- The Selectboard approved a motion by Golec to authorize Municipal Manager Timothy Cullenen to organize the removal of an aluminum pole on South Street.
-- The Selectboard allowed the Bellows Falls American Legion Post 37 to transfer its Class #1 and Class #3 licenses to the Polish American Picnic Grounds for its annual picnic, which is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25. Post 37 Finance Officer Richard A. Boucher said in a letter to board members the post will closed all day while the licenses are transferred.
-- In his manager's report, Cullenen said the previous weekend's Old Home Days festival was a safe and responsible success. He also thanked Mike Hindes and the highway crew for going out early Sunday morning to clean up.
He went on to say the Brockways Mills Road project seems to be on track and on budget.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.