The March meeting of the Windham County Conservation District Board of Supervisors will be Wednesday, March 11th at 6:30 PM at the home of Meg Kluge, 795 Bonnyvale Rd, Brattleboro, VT 05301. Members of the public are welcome at your conservation district’s board meetings. If you would like to attend and need driving directions, please contact District Manager Cory Ross at email@example.com
A draft of the minutes from the February Meeting of the Windham Conservation District are below:
February Board Meeting Minutes
February 4, 2020, 6:30 PM at Geof Dolman’s Home (236 Barrows Rd, Brattleboro, VT 05301)
Meeting called to order at 6:30 PM.
Present: Linda Corse, Geof Dolman, Meg Kluge, Pieter Van Loon, Cory Ross, Somara Zwick
Meg Kluge made a motion to appoint Pieter van Loon to the vacant board seat. The motion was seconded by Geof Dolman and was approved by a vote of 3 to 0.
A discussion was held regarding the district’s financial policies and procedures. Cory submitted a draft document created based on the policies and procedures of the Franklin County NRCD and prepared by Cory and Geof. Our NRCC Core Services Agreement requires us to maintain these and post them to the shared VACD drive. There was some question as to whether the district already has a set of policies in place. No one can remember when they were last reviewed or what they are.
Somara Zwick from VACD shared her thoughts on the draft financial policies and procedures. A key question is whether the District should remain on a cash basis or adopt accrual basis. Somara recommends some form of modified cash or modified accrual. In modified accrual we would record expenses on a cash basis but record income on the accrual basis. Somara explained that in cash accounting you have two baskets (income and expense), but in the accrual basis you add two more baskets (money we owe and money owed to us). In this system, paying bills is like moving money between baskets. She feels that accrual is a better matching of expenses and income. She is willing to write up a step by step guide to accrual and provide additional training for Cory.
Somara also recommends that we come up with a cash flow forecasting system. Essex CD has a model we might consult. Cory and Geof will meet to work on the spreadsheet that tracks and projects cash flow and expenses.
The board agreed on adding a second board signatory to the bank account. Somara said that if the chair has approval power than they should not have signatory power. However, if spending requires the approval of multiple people, this is not as important.
Somara said that the DM should provide the board with the bank statement and reconciliation report each month (with any account numbers blanked out).
On Point 9, board discussed removing the term “unusual” from this clause. Somara felt that Allowing $500 expenditures outside the budget without board approval may be large for our current budget, but this amount would likely need to be more like $1,000 if the District is able to grow in the future.
The board discussed audits and what the term “regularly” means. Somara said that the state council has some responsibility to provide financial oversight of districts. True audits are expensive. There are no Vermont requirements for audits for municipalities. Somara said that the board should be able to request an audit and suggested we add the language “as the board deems sufficient” to the policies and procedures. She also said that we can limit audit expense by seeking “an independent review of finances” instead of a full audit. If the board has concerns, they can ask for an audit of specific procedures, such as bank reconciliations, expense reports, financial reports, cancelled checks etc.
Cory will type of the discussed changes and share with the board. Plan is to vote on adopting the policies at the March board meeting.
The board discussed the logistics for the plant sale on May 9. Cory and Meg will meet to go over details. Somara is willing to help with set up and will share order forms with wildlife gardening event being held at Hogback. One issue to consider in the plant sale is how to make do without plastic bags, now that the bag ban is in effect in Brattleboro. English muffin bags were mentioned as being good for blueberry plants. We will also need cardboard boxes.
No-till workshop will be held March 17th at the Westminster Historical Society. Methods of outreach for both this event and the plant sale were discussed. Some options that were brought up were Sunny Keene radio station calendar, iBrattleboro, the Commons, and Front Porch Forum. It was suggested that we could call the commons and ask for their input on outreach ideas. Other potential sources for outreach include the Northeast Organic Farming Organization and the Regenerative Agriculture Facebook Page. Rob Wheeler is the vice chair of Agri-Mark and sends out a list-serve email. It may be worthwhile to contact him. Full Plate Farm was also mentioned.
Marie Caduto advised Cory that the district should be conducting legislative outreach. The board discussed the logistics and potential topics for such an event. Mondays are thought to be good for legislative schedules. Potential topics include wetlands issues, Act 250 changes and Act 76 water issues. Vermont Woodlands Association sends out a legislative update weekly. This could provide some ideas for potential topics.
District manager report was submitted by Cory. The board reviewed it and asked questions. The point was made that the minutes that are posted on the website should be marked “draft” until the board votes to accept them.
Pieter suggested we include a spot for people to sign up for the district’s email newsletter on mailings to reduce the number of paper mailings needed.
Meg made a motion to approve the minutes with corrections from the January 8 meeting. Motion was seconded by Pieter and passed unanimously.
Future agenda items: Somara Zwick shared information regarding her suggestion that the district outsource its payroll to a company such as Paychex. She believes the district could avoid accounting mistakes and free up the district manager’s time to focus on conservation objectives by paying a third party to handle our payroll and related tax filings. Somara will send additional materials about this to Cory for him to share with the board. Board plans to discuss this in more detail at the March 11th meeting.
Linda shared information from a meeting she attended with the White River Conservation District and the Connecticut River Watershed Farmers Alliance about payment for ecosystem services. She voiced concerns that this initiative may be moving towards being a program that incentivizes improvements being implemented on farms. Such programs already exist and payment for ecosystem services was hoped to be a mechanism for recognizing the important ecosystem services that farms already provide.
Meeting adjourned at 8:37 PM.
Cory Ross (in Katie’s absence)