Governance Committee Continues Research with School Committee

Thursday evening, following its Executive Session, the School Committee (SC) reconvened and shared almost an hour of its meeting time with the Governance Committee (GC).  Sam Tyler, GC Chair, called the remote session to order at 7:13 PM and reviewed the purpose of this visit. 

“The Governance Committee was established by the Select Board to review the bylaws for Governance issues,” Tyler explained.  The Special Act of 1994 recommended the establishment of a Town Administrator, and since that time there have been no changes to Holliston’s by-laws.  Tyler explained that the GC is looking at charters and bylaws of other towns, focusing especially on their “Financial and Fiscal Procedures,” as there are no such written procedures in Holliston.  “It is a good time to look at and to understand the process as it exists now,” said Tyler.

Tyler elicited information about the budget process followed by the School Committee. Anne Louise Hanstad, SC member and Chair of the group’s Budget Sub-Committee, provided an overview its process.  The detailed timeline Hanstad provided followed a course from October through to the Annual Town Meeting date.  She felt that the process was a “healthy collegial process.” 

Tyler asked if it would be helpful to have guidelines for everyone.  Hanstad answered, “The process works well.  Everyone is on the same page.  I don’t want us to lose the ability to be flexible with a by-law.”  Tyler asked if there were any suggestions for improvement.  “Not for the operating budget,” Hanstad said.  SC Chair Stacey Raffi added, “A strategic plan of the town is needed.” The SC also thought it might be helpful to have a Capital Planning Committee for Holliston.  With that, Tyler concluded, “We’ll stay in touch,” and the two groups split into two separate Zoom meetings.

Sam Tyler, Governance Committee Chair

Following its own agenda, the Governance Committee voted to approved meeting minutes, and Tyler began by sharing his progress in meeting with Town Administrators (TA) and Town Managers (TM) of some of the 15 communities (similar in nature to that of Holliston) that have specific written “Fiscal and Financial Procedures.”  He said that in the two towns he researched, the TA/TM felt that having a Charter Article was helpful because all understood their responsibility in the timeline.  In the community Paul LeBeau researched, dates were enumerated as a number of days preceding the Town Meeting.  LeBeau also noted the Town Manager’s perspective that dragging out a budget throughout an entire year drags on everyone’s energy; completing the budget in a more compressed time was beneficial to all.  The Committee spoke about the variations of timelines shared by other towns. 

Christina Lingham

Member Tina Lingham agreed to explore the potential of social media such as Facebook to post information on the Governance Committee and its work within the next few weeks.  The town’s website also presently contains several documents of interest to residents such as the 1994 Report by the Government Study Committee, the Holliston Organizational Chart, and a Town Government and Finance Comparisons.  (Website: Click here.

In planning next steps for the Committee members, all agreed to continue meeting with the TA/TM of their list of 15 communities.  LeBeau noted that the research and work of the GC most likely would continue through the coming weeks.  Members also agreed that an important part of their work will be sharing their recommendations with the townspeople and getting public input through an open discussion. Next week they plan to meet with Travis Ahern, Town Administrator of Holliston, to gather his thoughts about the town’s budget process.   The meeting adjourned at 8:42 PM.  No date has been set for the next meeting.

Yvette Cain

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