MWDN: Mark Purple and Southborough officials talk budget process

by susan on October 1, 2012

Soon-to-be Town Administrator Mark Purple doesn’t officially start work in Southborough until October 18, but he’s already gearing up for the upcoming budget season. Purple met with the Town Manager Ad Hoc Committee last week to talk about what his role will be in preparing budgets.

The committee hopes to bring a warrant article before voters at a Special Town Meeting this winter that would expand the day-to-day responsibilities of the town administrator, including giving him a bigger role in the budgeting process.

Reports the Metrowest Daily News:

A large part of the discussion is the town administrator’s role in the budget process. Selectmen are pushing for Purple to have an expanded role in preparing and presenting the budget, and built several additional budget responsibilities into his job description.

For the bylaw, Ad Hoc members are looking to shore up the responsibilities of the town administrator and the finance Advisory Committee, which has historically had a loud voice in the process.

You can read more in this article by the MWDN.

1 Al Hamilton October 1, 2012 at 1:04 PM

I think several clarifications are in order:

1. We are required by State Law to have an Advisory Committee (other towns call this a Finance or Appropriation committee but they are all the same). In the absence of a by law to the contrary, the Advisory Committee is charged with developing, presenting, moving, and defending the budget at Town Meeting.

2. In the absence of a by law to the contrary the Board of Selectmen have no role in the budget process aside from making appropriation requests for departments under their control. This view is supported by the Mass Municipal Association and an opinion from the Mass. Department of Revenue.

3. The current Advisory By Law, which is the only place in our by laws where the budget is mentioned is largely silent on roles and responsibilities in the budget process. It is in this respect clear as mud.

4. The situation we have today is that we are not really following the state required budget process or any other documented budget process. What we have is an informal system that has evolved and in which the BOS does play a significant role.

5. What the committee is trying to do is to make those roles and responsibilities clear and transparent by codifying them in a by law. This will almost certainly result in moving some authorities that currently rest (at least formally) with the Advisory Committee and move them under the BOS and by extension to the Town Admin.

6. I did a comparison of about 75 Advisory/Finance/Appropriation committees in Mass. There are some that assert complete control over the budget, some with the power to summon officials, some who have dedicated staff, some that have formal claims on administrative resources. By comparison our Advisory Committee falls on the relatively weak end of the scale. As an example of the 75 committees I reviewed they are the only ones that have to maintain their own web site and maintain their own budget tools.

7. It is important that we clarify these roles and responsibilities. The budget process is the foundation of our tax rate. Taxpayers deserve and should demand a clear, transparent process in the development of the expenditure requests that drive their taxes. They do not have one today.

2 Al Hamilton October 1, 2012 at 1:05 PM

Oops,

I meant to add a full disclosure statement. I am a former member and chair of Advisory and am a member and chair of the “Ad Hoc” committee. The opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect the position of the “Ad Hoc” committee.

Previous post:

Next post: