SHAFTSBURY -- The Town of Shaftsbury projects to end the fiscal year with a fund balance of about $351,000, roughly $78,000 more than expected, according to the town’s treasurer, Bill Fisk.

Fisk presented his report of the town’s finances for fiscal year 2014, which ends on June 30, at their meeting on Monday. Town Administrator Margy Becker explained that a portion of the surplus exists because of delays to the sidewalk project for the corner of Route 7A and Church Street, for which the town had budgeted about $90,000. That project has faced numerous delays in getting permits from the state, and may not take place before the fiscal year ends in June. Asked by one selectman if the town would have overspent had the project gone forward, Becker explained that, once the project begins, the town will receive about $70,000 in state funds, meaning that the net cost of the project will only be $20,000.
"It’s a tiny project," said Becker, "but we have to jump through all the hoops, get all the permits, as if it were a larger project."

"That’s good news, after a bad winter," said chairman Tim Scoggins of the budget surplus, noting how busy the road crew had been over the winter months. Many on the board had previously expressed concern that the road budget would cause the town to overspend their budget, but that has not proved to be the case.

The board also heard from the chairman Chris Williams and Bill Pennebaker Planning Commission, who presented the board with their newly revised Town Plan. The Select Board will hold public hearings on the plan, as the Planning Commission has already done, before voting to adopt it. The new and old plans, as well as a document explaining the changes that were made, can be found on the town’s website.

Rob Stewart of RCS Consulting, Inc, of Shaftsbury, which stands for Real-time Computing Solutions also spoke to the board about expanding the information technology services the company already provides to the Town Offices. RCS currently provides tech support when problems arise for town employees, but Scoggins suggested that RCS could also provide the town with email and online backup services as well.

Shaftsbury currently utilizes Comcast as its email provider, but Comcast only provides 10 email address, and those have long been used up, said Scoggins. Having more email addresses would allow town officials, such as selectmen, to not use their personal email addresses for town business. All new email addresses would end with @shaftsbury.net.

Vice chairman Mitch Race was concerned about the contract, saying, "I’ve seen consultants pad hours, and they say, ‘Well, I was working on this or that’ and you can’t prove that they didn’t, so you have to pay them." Race wanted language in the contract that required both sides to keep all communication in writing, so as to better keep track of all services provided. Becker, who frequently deals with RCS, said that this would hinder the flexibility of a relationship that has worked very well so far. She also noted that email programs not working was a common example of a time when RCS would need to be contacted, but the Town wouldn’t be able to do it in writing.

"We don’t have an IT support staff," said Scoggins, emphasizing the need to have RCS on call at all times, "They are our IT support staff."

The board also appointed Karen Mellinger as the coordinator for Town Green-Up Day, and authorized a stipend of $200 for the position of Health Officer. That position has now been posted.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB