Governance Committee Meets for Q & A
Thursday afternoon’s remote meeting of the Governance Committee (GC), called to order by Chair Sam Tyler at 4:04 PM, opened to a Zoom screen of Committee members and several guests. Tyler provided a brief synopsis of the Committee’s work from August 2020 to the present, and then opened the meeting to questions and comments by those attending.
Department heads and members of elected town boards and committees who had not yet met with the GC attended. Much information was garnered at previous meetings with the Town Administrator, finance officers, and other boards and committees and resulted in numerous changes to their draft Articles. A public forum also allowed them to bring information to residents and answer questions. Two resulting Articles Articles 9 and 10, on the Warrant now await the public at the May 10 Town Meeting.
Members of the GC presented a summary of the Committee’s work which began in earnest in August 2020, when they voted to develop a fiscal budget process. This focus area was selected, as Holliston’s current By-Laws had no explicit content regarding the development responsibilities of the budget process. Recent hiring of a new Town Administrator presented the opportunity for a professional full-time financial team to plan and develop the budget that would then be subject to an independent review by the Finance Committee. By-Law recommendations would then present a structure to ensure a consistent budget process that would sustain even as Town officials and board and committee members change.
The budget development process recommendation of the GC, in summary, includes having
- Responsibility for the Town’s budget planning and development with the Town Administrator and the Town’s financial team.
- Review of the comprehensive budget by the Finance Committee beginning after the budget is transmitted by the Town Administrator.
- Consultation between the Town Administrator and the Finance Committee occurring throughout the budget planning and development process.
A complete and detailed version of Articles 9 and 10 can be found on the GC website:
(See “Proposed By-Law Changes for FY22 Town Meeting”: https://www.townofholliston.us/governance
Chief Michael Cassidy was first to speak, “I am 100% in support of this.” He spoke of the perceived advantage in working on the budget with the professional staff. “Disparate treatment—over years, I have seen this. A small board or committee is told to cut more, and a large committee—its budget is allowed to go through,” explained Cassidy.
Karla Alfred, Vice-Chair of the Library Trustees, asked “Who makes the final cuts [to a budget] if it is not balanced before the Town Meeting?” Tyler explained the Town Administrator would receive budgets from the boards and committees and compile these in consultation with the Finance Committee. “When the Town Administrator compiles these, if there is an imbalance…the Town Administrator and the Finance Committee decide how to address an imbalance.” Paul LeBeau, GC member and former Holliston Town Administrator, said, “It is our vision that the Town Meeting gets the report—the requests from the boards and committees—and the recommendations from the Finance Committee, and the Town Meeting makes the final decision.” He said, “The premise is that all groups recognize that a balanced budget is needed.”
When Alfred asked, “What is the change?” referring to the GC’s proposed budget process in comparison to the past process, Leslie McDonnell, Library Director, replied, “The difference is we go over the budget with the Town Administrator. This was missing. The work between the Town Administrator and the heads of departments helps to develop stronger relationships, a piece formerly missing.” She agreed with Chief Cassidy: “This is a good idea.”
McDonnell also called the development of a Capital Planning Committee (CPC) “a great idea,” and asked for details of its composition. Tina Lingham, GC member, listed proposed membership: the facilities director, the school finance officer, and the town accountant, (these three having no voting privileges) and a member of each of these groups—the select board, the finance committee, the school committee, the planning board, as well as a resident appointed by the Moderator.
The GC plans one more public hearing next week, when residents will have the opportunity to ask questions and get answers prior to the Town Meeting on May 10 when residents will vote whether to approve the GC’s proposed Fiscal Budget Process. Tyler also referred residents to the GC webpage where they will find a Fact Sheet of the recommendations as well as changes to Articles 9 and 10. The Committee adjourned at 5:25 PM.
The Governance Committee’s second Public Forum will be held on Thursday, May 6th at 7:00pm. The forum will be held remotely and can be accessed as follows: You can participate by computer at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89227508029 and when prompted for password, enter: 13579 OR call by phone 1-646-558-8656, then enter Meeting ID: 892 2750-8029 and when prompted for password, enter 13579.
The May 10th Town Meeting Warrant can be viewed – along with exhibits from the GC here -> https://www.townofholliston.us/sites/g/files/vyhlif706/f/uploads/atm_warrant_-_may_10_2021_-_final_4.23.21.pdf