Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Thurman Clerk accepts petition for public vote

THURMAN  In an upcoming special election, town voters will be asked to decide whether to move money from a reserve fund to the Highway Department’s budget to make up for a six-figure shortfall.
The shortfall was caused when bills from the last two months of 2014 were paid using money set aside for 2015.
On Monday, Town Clerk Cynthia Hyde certified the 39-signature petition to trigger a referendum on the money transfer and accepted it for filing. The town clerk is responsible for determining whether a petition, on its face, meets the minimum legal requirements.
Hyde said she took several weeks to certify the petition after consulting the town attorney and said it’s not her job to validate it.
“It’s not my job to decide if it’s valid or not. It’s only my job to accept it,” Hyde said. “The petition meets all the basic requirements, and therefore, there’s nothing I can do but accept it.”
A special election will have to be scheduled for 60 to 75 days from the date the petition was filed, which was March 30.
“This was the first time I’ve ever had to deal with a permissive referendum,” Hyde said.
In 2011, the town established a reserve fund for road repair after the damaging storms of that year.
That fund has grown to roughly $174,000, plus accrued interest.
Two resolutions in January were unanimously approved by the Town Board — to reduce the reserve fund from $174,024 to $10,000, and to use the $164,024 to pay highway bills from 2014 and create a machine reserve fund with the rest.
Supervisor Evelyn Wood said the roughly $101,000 in unpaid bills were paid in January with money from the highway fund, leaving the highway fund short that much for this year.
Then in March, Wood said the board learned the action to transfer money from the capital fund was subject to permissive referendum. So the board had to adopt a resolution at the March 11 meeting that gave residents 30 days to submit a petition to send the action to a vote.
Town Board member Michael Eddy voted no on that resolution and worked on circulating a petition to push the matter to a referendum.
The wording in the March 11 resolution states that the Town Board wishes to keep $10,000 in the reserve and also states “any monies currently held in the fund in excess of ($164,024.50) shall be returned to the general fund from which they originated.”
Eddy said he objected to the idea the money would be transferred from a reserve account to the general fund. He voted against that resolution.
“You shouldn’t be taking out savings. You should be looking at your budget for 2015,” Eddy said, adding that the Highway Department has run into shortfalls over the past four years.
“Unfortunately, the law says it has to go back to the fund from which it originated, but the board did in its earlier resolution indicate we wanted to transfer that money to the Highway Department,” Wood said last week.
Wood said she expects the issue to be discussed at the May 12 meeting.
“There’s some town law, municipal home rule law, a combination of many. What I’ll probably end up doing is conferring with the town attorney on what he sees the next step being. This is my first run-through. We’re just trying to make sure we do it right. I’ll be talking with the town attorney to make sure of that. He should be able to point us in the right direction and keep us on track,” Wood said.

This was originally posted by Post Star correspondent Amanda May Metzger on April 22, 2015

Friday, April 17, 2015

Petition for Permissive Referendum on transfer of funds

 Below you will find a copy of the Petition for Permissive Referendum on the transfer of funds to the Town of Thurman Highway Dept.
We obtained this copy on Wednesday April 15, 2015. It had not been redacted, meaning it still had signers residence. It has since been redacted as you will see under the heading "Residence" for the privacy of those signers.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Post Star Permissive Referendum Article

Transfer of funds may be up to voters in Thurman
THURMAN u Voters in Thurman may be tasked with deciding how to make up an approximately $101,000 shortfall in the town Highway Department’s budget.
If the petition circulated by Town Board member Michael Eddy carrying 39 signatures is deemed valid, it will trigger a townwide referendum on the Town Board’s decision to transfer about $164,000 from a “capital improvement capital fund.”
The transfer would leave just $10,000 in the capital fund but provide enough money to replenish the Highway Department’s budget and establish a reserve for machinery costs. The capital fund was created for road repairs after the damaging storms of 2011.
Highway Superintendent Patrick Wood said if residents vote on the transfer and deny it, layoffs to the seven-person crew and cuts to services will likely ensue.
“Everybody’s got to work together on this. I just feel we need to work together and spend a lot more time on fixing the problems rather than fixing the blame,” Wood said following at least an hour of heated debate at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting.
The debate took place among the town’s leaders, who are frequently at odds.
“There are men sitting out there who want to know if they’re going to have a job and if they’re going to be able to pay their bills,” said Town Board member Gail Seaman.
Seaman asked Eddy what his plan was for funding the Highway Department if the money transfer is prevented by the public’s vote, which can’t happen until at least June.
“My plan is to have a permissive referendum,” Eddy said, adding after the meeting that he felt “scare tactics” were being used by the supervisor.
The public comment — about 30 people attended — was equally lively, with one woman suggesting Eddy should step down from the board.
Because of the uncertainty of funding created by the possible referendum, Patrick Wood said he cannot submit a paving schedule to the county.
Supervisor Evelyn Wood expressed a concern about cash flow.
“My concern is if he expends that money for paving, this fund might run out of money before the (CHIPS) reimbursement comes in. If the fund is out of money, he can’t pay the staff,” she said.
For the last two months of 2014, the Highway Department went over budget by roughly $101,000. In January, the Town Board was faced with making up the shortfall to pay the bills.
Wood said the department has gone over budget in year’s past, but has been able to work through the shortfalls by finding places to cut back.
The shortfall last year was caused by a number of things mainly related to the harsh winter, such as rising salt costs and overtime.
Wood said she cannot find any way other than the transfer to make up the money, and the town only has about $80,000 to $90,000 in its general fund now.
Two resolutions in January were unanimously approved by the Town Board — to reduce the road repair reserve funded after storms in 2011 from $174,024 to $10,000; and to use the $164,024 to pay the highway bills from 2014 and create a machine reserve fund with the rest.
Evelyn Wood said the roughly $101,000 was paid in January with money from the highway fund, which left it short that much for this year.
“The funds that we appropriated and raised for 2015, we actually used to pay the 2014 bills, which is what is going to cause the shortage. We anticipated the transfer coming through. Now that that is not the case, it will have an effect on operations,” Wood said.
After the January meeting, Wood said, she spoke to the town attorney and found out if the board was going to move money from the capital improvement fund, it had to adopt a resolution saying the transfer was subject to permissive referendum, meaning a petition could send it to a townwide vote.
At a March 10 meeting, the resolution stating the transfer was subject to permissive referendum passed 4-1, with Eddy in opposition.
Eddy then circulated a petition to send the transfer of money to a vote.
He took issue with the wording of the resolution because it stated the money would be moved back to the general fund.
“I don’t see us taking savings money and putting it back in the general fund,” Eddy said. “It should have been paid out of 2014.”
Wood said it has to move to the general fund first, because that’s where it originated.
Eddy collected 39 signatures, which was enough. In Thurman, at least 25 signatures are required to trigger a referendum. The law calls for 5 percent of the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election, or at least 25.
The petition was submitted at the end of March, but Town Clerk Cynthia Hyde said Tuesday she was in the process of determining its validity.
“I guess I don’t really know what we’re talking about this for. When I’m ready, I’ll tell you and you can take it from there,” Hyde said Tuesday after Evelyn Wood asked her about the petition’s validity.
It is the town clerk’s sole responsibility to assess whether such a petition meets legal requirements.
“You’re trying to invalidate this petition,” Hyde said.
Wood said the board needs a decision from Hyde because an election has to be scheduled 60 to 75 days from the date of the petition’s receipt if it is valid.

 This article was originally posted in the Post Star at