Candidate Q & A: Moses Grader, Select Board

The following represents the candidate’s responses to the Current’s Select Board-specific questions. Jump back to Election Guide

Years in Marblehead: Over 30 years, with family in town for generations

Occupation/education: Co-founder and managing principal of Little Harbor Advisors, an investment management firm based in Marblehead. Career experience with Big Five accounting consultancy, investment banking and venture investments. Veteran of U.S. Marine Corps. MBA from Harvard Business School, master’s of arts and diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy; bachelor of arts from Tufts University.

Appointed positions and/or elected offices: Finance Committee member nine years, last six years as its chair. Select Board member five years, last year as its chair

What are the three reasons/issues motivating your decision to run for election?

— To ensure that the Town Administrator and Finance Director hired this fiscal year continue to be successful and enjoy rewarding leadership roles under a proactive, thoughtful, cooperative and generative Select Board.

— To revolutionize the town’s delivery of financial transparency and understanding through the simultaneous adoption of the Government Finance Officers Association Distinguished Financial Budget Award (strategic plan) and the implementation of ClearGov (budget software)

— To continue to champion Marblehead’s resource management capabilities to improve the town’s ability to manage costs and seek new revenues.

— To continue to improve the governance of citizens committees under the Select Board’s purview.

— To create the space for our Select Board members to pursue their individual interests while representing all Marbleheaders, and to encourage a collegial environment for debate, learning and problem solving.  

Do you believe the $2.5 million override will pass? How are you actively persuading the town to support it? In the event that it does not pass, what alternatives do you propose?

There is probably a 50/50 chance that the override will pass. I voted in favor of the override and believe the taxpayers will be supportive if we can mount a credible and clear case for increasing taxes in excess of Proposition 2 1/2.  

I have asked the Town Administrator and Finance Director, as designees of the Select Board, to assemble a one-page summary sheet of the override components, a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document for taxpayers to read and an easy-to-read summary statement of financial condition of the town. 

Through the media outlets (newspapers, MHTV, social media), the Town Administrator and Finance Director will take the lead to explain and expand on the facts of the override question in as clear a format as possible.
In the event that the override does not pass, the town has made provisions to live under a balanced budget without layoffs largely because vacant positions have not been filled. The school district leadership has explained that it will be forced to defund a mix of approximately 30 vacant and staffed positions.

What measures would you propose to increase our town’s revenues without excessively burdening taxpayers?

Pursue the limited opportunities for new growth at the remaining residential or commercial development sites. Seek as much funding as possible from state- and federally-subsidised programs through the Town Planner, new HR Director, new Sustainability Coordinator and the Fair Housing Committee. 

How would you ensure the long-term financial health of our town, extending beyond the immediate deficit?

Beyond the immediate structural deficit from salaries and benefits increases, other potential expense drivers are looming in this inflationary economic environment — including energy, health care, contracts, etc. — many of which cannot be controlled by town management.
Handling the structural deficit will require a proactive, multi-year approach:

— Weaning the town from dependence on free cash and shifting to stabilization fund.

— Using finance technology to tighten transparency and accountability, which can result in savings with harder look at costs.

— Better financial controls by aligning accountability of departmental decisions to financial outcomes.

— Managing big-ticket budget line items:  

  • New HR function to focus on managing benefits and find savings
  • New Sustainability Coordinator, to focus on managing energy costs and identifying other sources of grants. 

— Seeking opportunities for new growth and access to other state funding.
Despite a much more unpredictable economic environment, I am confident that we are on our way to significantly increasing the clarity, credibility and accountability of the town’s financial reporting and budgeting processes. 

Could you share your philosophy on maintaining reserves and their significance in situations like the present budget deficit?

Reserves are crucial for the maintenance of the town’s AAA credit rating. Free cash is an important reserve buffer but is not designed as a long-term operating buffer. By contrast, a stabilisation fund represents a set-aside of operating surplus, therefore reflecting the town’s true financial condition and operating as true “rainy day fund.” Also, unlike free cash, stabilization fund monies can be accessed only by vote of Town Meeting providing an early indication to taxpayers of the types of costs impacting the town, especially costs outside control of town management.

What areas of municipal government do you think the town could give more attention to? 

An area of ongoing focus will be to continue to improve the governance and effectiveness of citizens volunteer committees including those implementing the new Harbor Plan, the new Net Zero Roadmap and new fair housing initiatives. Other areas include:

  • Finalization of town’s financial policies and procedures
  • New reference guide for available manuals and statutory traditions of certain boards/committees
  • Implementation of Traffic Advisory Committee under by-law
  • Improve public meeting access
  • Improve the functionality of the town website

As real estate prices continue to soar, Marblehead homes appear increasingly unaffordable for many police officers, teachers and other public servants. This also affects those who grew up in town but cannot afford to return “home.” To what extent do you consider this a problem and what potential solutions can you propose?

I have placed priority on the re-organization of the Fair Housing Committee and the Housing Production Plan Implementation Committee to develop strategies to increase affordable housing. I have also supported the accessory dwelling unit zoning sponsored in this year’s Article 39, which provides a balanced approach to incentivizing affordable units.   

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