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Civics Sunday - Part IV: Finance Committee

by The Publishers
March 10, 2019

Continuing our Civics Sunday series, we begin by reminding you, our reader, that our intent is to provide brief descriptions of local boards, elected positions, or committees to prepare voters for the next Local Election on May 21, 2019, as well as to remind Holliston of our Annual Town Meeting on May 6, 2019.

Continuing our Civics Sunday series, we begin by reminding you, our reader, that our intent is to provide brief descriptions of local boards, elected positions, or committees to prepare voters for the next Local Election on May 21, 2019, as well as to remind Holliston of our Annual Town Meeting on May 6, 2019.

This week’s column briefly describes the Finance Committee; we will vote for 3 members of the Finance Committee this spring.

You may review previous Civics Sunday columns at any time by clicking on a link below:

Part I:  The Town Meeting

Part II:  The Town Moderator and Town Clerk

Part III: The Town Selectmen

Finance Committee: A Look at Massachusetts

A group of Quincy citizens banded together in 1870 to restore financial order in their city, thereby creating the Commonwealth’s first finance committee.  In 1910, Massachusetts’ courts ruled that a municipal finance committee was legal.  The MA General Court also saw the need for such finance committees statewide and required all towns, except the smallest, to establish a finance committee to assist in dealing with emerging challenges. 

Towns with a property value of $1 million or more must create a Finance Committee. This committee may also be known as the advisory, warrant or appropriation committee.  The moderator or the selectmen appoint some towns’ Finance Committee.  The main responsibility of the “FinCom” is to make recommendations on all financial matters, including the budget, to Town Meeting.  It has oversight responsibility for all town financial matters. Sometimes referred to as a fiscal watchdog for the taxpayers, a finance committee may conduct quite a thorough review of a town’s finances. 

Work of the Finance Committee can be year-round, but most activities take place from December to May.  Typically budget guidelines, worksheets and instructions are distributed to departments in the fall.  The town administrator and selectmen, superintendent and school committee, and the finance committee members review the requests over the winter.  These reviews lead to the recommendations of the Finance Committee to Town Meeting. 

Holliston’s Finance Committee

The By-laws of Holliston establish the terms and responsibilities of our Finance Committee.  The town maintains a Finance Committee of 7 members, each serving a term of three years.  The term of no more than three, but no less than two members expires in any one year.   It is interesting to note that a person on the Finance Committee may not hold any other elected or appointed office in town or be employed by the town. 

As with other committees, the Finance Committee meets “promptly” after the annual election as new members begin their term.  At this meeting, the Chair, Vice Chair, and Clerk are elected from its members.

The Committee is concerned with any and all town questions so as to create a report or recommendation to the town about matters that relate to (not limited to) the following:

  • Appropriation of funds

  • Borrowing and spending money

  • Town debt

  • Property valuations and assessments, and

  • Administration of the town offices and departments.

Various town boards, officers, and committees are expected to prepare and submit a detailed budget with explanations for each change from the previous fiscal year by a date selected by the Finance Committee.   Additionally, the Finance Committee may request further information about town affairs and town funds under the control of any board, committee or officer that may be relevant to financial decisions. 

At least seven days before any Town Meeting, the Finance Committee submits a printed report of its recommendations to the voters with accompanying explanations.  No appropriation can be made until the Finance Committee receives a report. 

We as voters have the duty to select three members of this committee of seven on May 21, choose wisely!  A FinCom member has considerable responsibility, and we rely on each of them to guide us in a direction that maintains Holliston’s fiscal solvency.

Resources:

Town of Holliston By-laws

Southborough Finance Committee Handbook

Wilbraham Finance Committee Handbook

Holliston Finance Committee Web page

Plymouth Advisory and Finance Committee Overview

Origin of Massachusetts Finance Committees

 

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Comments (1)

Another great presentation. These Civics Sunday's should be read by all voters and their children.

- Henry Dellicker | 3/17/19 8:23 AM

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