|Williamstown Sails Through Audit, Receives High Bond Rating |
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff|
02:38AM / Thursday, June 07, 2018
|Anne O'Connor, left, was elected by her colleagues Monday to chair the Williamstown Select Board.|
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town received another clean bill of health from its auditor, the Select Board learned on Monday evening.
David Irwin from Pittsfield's Adelson and Company reported on the town's fiscal 2017 audit, taking the board through the highlights of his firm's analysis of the town's books.
The bottom line was a clean or "unmodified" opinion, Irwin told the board.
Irwin said his firm gave particularly high marks to the town's tax collection efforts. For FY17, it collected 98.79 of the property tax bills it issued; that's up a little from the 98.5 in 2016 and the 98.1 in 2015.
Personal property taxes were collected at a rate of 99.5 percent, and motor vehicle excise taxes, which are generally harder to collect, were recovered at a rate of 88 percent in town, Irwin said.
"The collector and the treasurer's office does a good job in staying on top of that," he said.
It was good financial news all the way around on Monday as the Select Board also learned that the town's Aa1 bond rating from Moody's translated to a lower-than-anticipated interest rate for the 20-year bond for the new police station project.
"We were expecting in the range of a 3.3 percent average coupon," Williamstown Treasurer Janet Sadler said. "We received 3.078 percent, which is phenomenal.
"In addition to that, we received a healthy premium [$262,513]. We applied a chunk of that to the issuance cost and the rest back to the loan. So instead of $5 million, we're borrowing $4.835 million."
Town Manager Jason Hoch said Pittsfield's Salco Construction has been selected as the project's general contractor. Once major construction at the former Turner House on Simonds Road gets underway -- as soon as this month -- the town is looking at a 12-month timeline for substantial completion, he said.
Sadler also was at the meeting to explain to the board and seek its blessing for intermunicipal agreements between the town, the Hoosic River Water Quality District and the town of Hancock.
The latter two municipal entities recently were "orphaned" for their health insurance when a group that pooled several smaller entities in the counties announced its intent to disband as of July 1.
Berkshire Health Group, to which belong Williamstown and most of the towns -- outside Pittsfield and North Adams -- offered to add the smaller entities. But entities like the water district and Hancock are too small to be full-fledged voting members in the health group according to its rules.
"Some of the larger entities on the Berkshire Health Group committee decided we should adopt them and bring them under our umbrella," Sadler said. "The joint purchase agreement we're asking you to sign tonight basically states that we will be their voting representative on the Berkshire Health Group board."
No money will change hands under the arrangement. Hancock and the water district will continue to pay for their own insurance. The move just allows them to not have to go out as individual buyers on the market.
"A lot of school districts took on smaller entities," Sadler said. "The Town of Adams is taking on the Adams Fire District. No one is left out … unless [town] boards vote against it."
The Williamstown Select Board voted 5-0 to approve the arrangement.
In other business on Monday, the Select Board held its annual reorganization.
Anne O'Connor was elected chair, taking the gavel from Hugh Daley. Jeffrey Thomas was elected vice chair and Jane Patton secretary. O'Connor also agreed to continue as the board's representative on the town's Affordable Housing Trust; Patton will continue to serve in the Select Board seat on the Community Preservation Committee.