Governance Committee Interviews Finance Team

In a late afternoon meeting on Tuesday, the Governance Committee (GC) interviewed Holliston’s Finance Team – Sharon Emerick, Accountant, Kathryn Peirce, Principal Assessor, and Mary Bousquet, Treasurer-Collector, with an assist from Tyler Ahern, Town Administrator, to learn more about the town’s Finance and Fiscal Procedures.

Sam Tyler, GC Chair, opened the remote open meeting at 4 PM, and explained the purpose for eliciting the Finance team’s input:  to examine Holliston’s present finance and fiscal procedures and how these could be made better.  In the Committee’s research and compilation of 15 towns with a “Finance and Fiscal Procedure,” Tyler said it found “no standard, a variety of information for each town.”

Using questions similar to those used in its interview of the Select Board, the GC elicited suggestions for improvements to the budget development and calendar.  Bousquet recommended that although she met early in the process with the Select Board then with the Finance Committee, but the Board did not have time to call anyone back.  Emerick agreed that the process was not efficient.  “It has no rhyme or reason.”   

Tyler shared observations of other towns’ practices.  “Some towns have an early meeting with the Select Board, the Finance Committee, and the School Committee.  They talk through the budget of the town.  The Town Administrator prepares the budget guidelines.” Tyler asked if this would be helpful for Holliston.  Emerick agreed.  She mentioned that her former experience in another town was similar to the process Tyler shared. 

Tyler asked, “What changes in the budget process would help you in your work?”  Peirce noted that it is difficult for the Finance Committee to meet with all department heads. “It’s hard work.  I’m not sure it’s necessary.”  Emerick said that although she receives guidelines from the Finance Committee, because circumstances differ for the smaller departments, “You can’t always stay in the confines.”  Bousquet said, “The process works.”  She suggested that a model for the budget be stored on a shared drive that could be accessed by all. 

Holliston’s Principal Assessor, Kathryn Peirce

Addressing the possibility of a Capital Budget Planning Committee to assist in preparation of the Capital Budget, all three thought this helpful.  Emerick suggested it be comprised of members of the Select Board, and School and Finance Committees, as well as the Town Administrator and Business Manager.

Travis Ahern, Town Administrator, spoke to the possibility of quarterly reports that would keep everyone on the same page.  Tyler said that these would be easy enough to create and would inform people of how the budget works.  Ahern also noted that the “Collins Center Document”  (created in 2017/18) is a living document that would provide more constant feedback to the process, and he could make this document accessible on the Town’s website for residents as well. 

To date, the Governance Committee has completed interviews with the Select Board, and plans to meet with the Finance Committee (September 15) and the School Committee to collect more information.  Tyler thanked everyone for helping the GC to understand another piece of the town’s fiscal and financial procedures.  The meeting adjourned at 5:18 PM.

See the GC webpage here for more information.

Yvette Cain

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