Governance Committee Continues By-Laws Project

It was immediately apparent that the Governance Committee (GC) is pursuing its By-laws project, examining Holliston’s “Finance and Fiscal Procedures,” Monday evening during a joint meeting with the Select Board.   Chair Sam Tyler opened the remote meeting at 7:00 PM, and the Select Board members shared responses to the GC’s “Questions Regarding the Town of Holliston’s Budget Development Process.”*

Noting that other Massachusetts towns have outlined specific steps in finance and fiscal procedures and that Holliston has none, Tyler explained the impetus for gathering answers to the 14 questions.  Next Tuesday the Governance Committee will meet with Holliston’s three finance officers (Accountant, Treasurer, and Assessor). Future meetings will include the School Committee and the Finance Committee.  The potential result of this project may be a recommendation of a “Finance and Fiscal Procedure” to the town’s By-laws.

Each of the 14 questions was answered in turn by Select Board members Ben Sparrell, Tina Hein, and John Cronin, with added information provided at times by Town Administrator Travis Ahern.  The Select Board answers varied, depending upon their experiences with the budget process.  Sparrell had the added perspective of being a former Finance Committee member. 

Several answers highlighted the Board’s perspective about the present role of the Finance Committee, as in developing the annual budget calendar, setting budget guidelines, and compiling the annual operating budget. Answers to–“Overall, how could Holliston’s current budget development process be improved?”–seemed to underline the need for written Finance and Fiscal Procedures.  Sparrell observed, “There is no fluidity from department to department presently.”  Hein noted the importance of quarterly reports and year-to-date expenditures as, “Decisions are… not well connected to town priorities and goals.”  Cronin said that more focus on the development of revenue and revenue projections that are not in the public view now would improve the process.

Tyler agreed to meet with the Select Board in two weeks to present an update on the Committee’s work.  The Governance Committee thanked the Select Board for its time and input, and the Committee resumed its agenda at 7:40 by approving minutes of its August 19 meeting. 

The group set September 8 at 4PM as its meeting time with the town’s finance officers.  In future planning, the Committee would like to hold Public Hearings to provide residents information about its work and allow for conversation, and possibly survey residents as well. 

The Governance Committee adjourned at 8:22 PM. 

* Questions Regarding the Town of Holliston’s Budget Development Process:

  1. When does the Town’s annual budget process begin?
  2. Does Holliston establish an annual budget calendar and who decides the schedule?
  3. Who sets the annual budget guidelines for the budget accounts and how are the guidelines established?
  4. Who is responsible for preparing the annual operating budget and how is it achieved?
  5. Who is responsible for preparing the capital budget?
  6. When does the Select Board receive the proposed complete operating budget and capital budget?
  7. When does the Finance Committee receive the proposed operating budget and from whom?
  8. Does the Finance Committee receive the operating and capital budgets at the same time as the Select Board or after each is approved by the Select Board?
  9.  When does the School Committee submit its budget for review by town officials and to whom?
  10. Is the School Committee budget submitted to the Town Administrator at the same time as the Finance Committee or does the Finance Committee received the budget later from the Town Administrator or Select Board?
  11. The budget acted on by Town Meeting is presented by which official, board or committee?
  12. What changes to the existing budget process would help you to succeed in your work? How?
  13. Overall, how could Holliston’s current budget development process be improved?
  14. Should Holliston have a Capital Planning Committee to assist in preparing the capital budget?

NOTE: Use of the word Who applies equally to town officials, boards and committees.

Yvette Cain

1 Comment

  1. Shaw Lively on September 3, 2020 at 9:57 am

    This is important work– thank you Yvette for the summery and to the committee for the dedication and time they are putting into this.

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