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City transfers questioned by candidates

October 26, 2011

PLYMOUTH — On Monday night, the Plymouth Common Council unanimously approved transferring $500,000 from the City’s General Fund to the Rainy Day Fund. With the latest transfer, the Rainy Day Fund now sits at just under $5.5 million.
City Attorney Nelson Chipman explained that whenever the purposes of a tax levy have been met, any unencumbered balance remaining can be placed in the General Fund or the Rainy Day Fund.
Chipman said the transfer of funds could be done any time during the fiscal year and the city could have made the transfer in November.
Chipman said, “The city of Plymouth is currently in the enviable position of having an unused and unencumbered balance within the General Fund from the fiscal year 2010.”
He then went on to say, “But the concern is that the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) would take into consideration the General Fund balance when it determines the appropriate and permissible levy to fund the City’s various operations.” “The only other option is to transfer these monies to the City’s Rainy Day Fund.”
Chipman told the Council members that Plymouth faces unprecedented fiscal uncertainty for the foreseeable future due to the limitations enacted by House Enrolled Act 1001.
Chipman said, “We simply do not know the full impact of the property tax reform measures now being implemented.”
Chipman indicated that the transfer of the $500,000 into the Rainy Day Fund was at the recommendation of Plymouth Clerk-Treasurer Toni Hutchings.
However, several audience members challenged the timing of the transfer during October.
The matter of how, when and why the unencumbered balance should be used has led to a difference of opinion by members of both political parties. Chipman had indicated that some of the candidates have made the Rainy Day Fund an issue.
Responding to Chipman’s comments, City Council candidate Jeff Houin said, “Attorney Chipman, you stated that you could have waited until the end of November to make the transfer to the Rainy Day Fund. Do I understand that you chose to make the transfer now because of the upcoming election?”
Chipman replied saying, “We wanted to be transparent.”
Jim Vinall, candidate for mayor, questioned whether the money should be transferred to the Rainy Day Fund, or whether it would be better to invest that money back into the city.
Also speaking from the audience was Ryan Ripley, who is also seeking a seat on the Council. Ripley said, “Why is there campaigning going on by the City Attorney during a City meeting?”
Chipman said he wasn’t going to debate the issue.
In other business:
Additional appropriations were made to the city garage/warehouse in the amount of $50,000 and to the Aviation Department Fund for $165,600. According to Chipman, the supplies housed in the warehouse are used city-wide by all departments.
The board of aviation commissioners had requested an additional appropriation for new furnaces and engineering contract fees due to the condition of the runaway at the Plymouth airport. The project that had been slated for 2012 , but was moved up. The runway will not be extended at this time, but will undergo a complete replacement and upgrading, according to Airport Manager Dave Lattimer.

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