By Gloria Austin
HOULTON — At the Feb. 24 Houlton Town Council meeting, much of the discussion centered around the new monthly financial reports with a breakdown of each town department.
Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said the content was a “bit slim,” but he would continue to work through the process to get the councilors better information. The figures gathered were for January 2014.
“January is typically a low-producing month as far as revenue,” explained Conlogue. “We have 2 percent of our projected revenue in so far.”
The two departments which are over the benchmark are the public works and ambulance.
Houlton ambulance revenues are about $137,000. That would be 50 percent above the bench mark or 12.49 percent.
“Ambulance overtime is up a little over 20 percent, which is above the bench mark of 8.3 percent,” said Conlogue. “Most of this is due to the overtime calls we have to take when people call for service and especially on transfers and those transfers are profitable. So it is not as bad as it looks as a figure, but it is still a high one.”
The next high figure is within the Department of Public Works.
“Personnel costs for the month, including overtime was about $34,747, which is good amount of money,” explained Conlogue.
Last year in January, the figure was $34,254. The difference between last year’s expenditures and this year at the same time is about $500.
The public works department, as of Jan. 31, has used 22.8 percent of their winter budget.
“With the constant snow and ice, it was what we expected to see,” said Conlogue. “It is a bad month for overtime.”
Another area is public works winter supply.
“We purchased about $13,000 worth of salt that was delivered in January,” said Conlogue.
A year ago, total salt supply cost $14,789.
And then the equipment line showed an increase, as well.
“We had high repair bills in the month of January,” Conlogue noted. “We had some major equipment issues that have skewed the figures for this year.”
Last year in January, the equipment repairs cost $4,659. This year, $17,729.
On fuel, diesel primarily, over $29,000 was consumed. Conlogue noted that $6,000 came from a delivery in January, which distorted that line item.
“Year to date in January revenues, the town is at 2.13 percent total due,” said Conlogue. “That is 7.7 below bench mark set for the month.”
Another point of interest addressed was the Millar Civic Center. Chairman Paul Cleary was disturbed by the center showing no revenue collected for the month of January.
“Why? This is my issue I have had with this building. We made changes a year and a half ago to move this building in the right direction, keep track at where it is and what it is doing, it makes me speechless [seeing this figure] which does not happen a lot.”
“We had revenue, but it was not recorded timely or properly,” explained Conlogue. “It is a glitch that we have internally that is being worked on and fixed. February you will have a much different looking report. I expect to go back and adjust the January figure and present it to you so you know what it was and we will have the February figures as well on a cumulative basis. I apologize. There are some issues being worked on and that is what I want to leave it at right now.”
The town collected $210,000 revenues in January and that is 2.13 percent of our overall budget, which led Conlogue to point out the need for a tax anticipation bank loan.
“Since this is one of our slow periods of revenue coming in, a tax anticipation note gives us that revenue stream,” he added.
Conlogue assured councilors that the budget spikes would level out, as the year progresses. The town still has not received a check for revenue sharing from the state, which comes in mid-February.
In other business:
Don Keiser, chair of the planning board, updated the council on amendments that the board was making to the RB Zone on North Street. The amendments will be introduced to the council on Monday, March 10, with a first reading set for March 24 and a public hearing on April 14.
Animal Control Officer Kevin Upton has given his resignation notice. Upton plans on staying on the job until a replacement is found. He has also offered to help train his replacement. Upton also has a state certification to take care of wild animals, which other animal control officers do not possess, so they can only take care of domestic animals. Search process is just getting underway.
Union negotiations may start as soon as the end of March. Councilors will review the package and decide what they would like to see on the negotiated list.
The TIF committee held its first meeting on Feb. 21. The panel has direction on what needs to be looked at. The town staff, Nedra Hanson, Cathy O’Leary and Conlogue, will meet with two councilors to review the work thus far.
The next town council meeting is Monday, March 10 at 6 p.m. at the town office.