Pomfret weighs senior spending limits

Town of Pomfret board members are making plans to put policies into writing regarding the Grapebelt Seniors group after the group spent remaining budget funds on a party.

At a workshop meeting Wednesday evening, Supervisor Donald Steger read from a letter he drafted to the group regarding the issue. In the letter, he explained the money budgeted for the group is for “an estimated amount to cover comprehensive activities” and stated remaining department funds are carried over into the next year to reduce costs to taxpayers. It also said departments are not to engage in “a process of spending down” the remaining funds and certain fiscal requirements would need to be met to fund adult recreational activities.

To address the problem, Steger suggested the senior group develop a budget to submit to the board for approval.

Councilpersons Patricia Christina and Ann Eckman said they would rather have the group come to the board for approval of specific items on a case-by-case basis. “I think they should have to get prior approval, say, for anything over $50,” Eckman suggested.

“I like prior approval,” Christina said.

Councilperson Scott Johnston expressed concern over day-to-day expenses for the group such as coffee and asked what other expenses the board typically pays in order to develop a policy which would not lead to regular requests for small amounts to cover normal operating expenses.

It was explained by several members a bill for paper goods, including paper plates, napkins, disposable silverware and other items, was submitted to the board last month for the year totaling about $250. Steger said the group has its own coffee fund.

In addition, Steger said, “Historically, we’ve paid for bowling, the 55 Alive program, and we’ve subsidized the bus trips.” Christina said of the bus trips, “They know well in advance when those trips will be. We pay for it then, then little by little, money comes in but we never get it all back. They have to cost about $50-60 per person.”

Two expenses are already paid by the board which Christina and Steger explained are separate items from the rest of the senior budget: exercise classes which costs $35 per session and rent of the Masonic lodge at $450 per month.

Town Attorney Jeffrey Passafaro said the board has final say over how any money in the group’s budget should be spent, and the board agreed and several members expressed a need for policies to be in writing.

“We have to be careful what we subsidize,” Christina stated, and added some non-Pomfret residents “enjoy the use of the facility” and activities while the group is funded by Pomfret taxpayers.

The overall consensus among board members was to require approval for any expenditures over $50. The board agreed $250 annually for paper goods was acceptable and would seek wording in the policy which would allow for standard operating expenses while disallowing unusual expenditures without prior board approval.

The board agreed to adopt a policy at its regular meeting next week on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

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