LWV OBSERVER CORPS: FinCom lays out calendar for budget process

Marblehead League of Women Voters Observer Corps
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Observer Corps Reports are provided by volunteers from the Marblehead League of Women Voters. To learn more about the League and its activities, see my.lwv.org/massachusetts/marblehead.

BOARD: Finance Committee

DATE: Oct. 30 (hybrid)

MEMBERS PRESENT: Alec Goolsby, Molly Teets, Michael Janco, Michael O’Neil, Timothy Shotmeyer, Terra Samuels (Zoom), Eric Knight (Zoom)

GUESTS: Thatcher Kezer, Linda Gifford

LWVM OBSERVER: Katharine Redmond

The Finance Committee met to review its calendar, appoint liaison committee members, and go over the budget formation process.

  • A preliminary revenue forecast was presented to the Select Board by Finance Director Aleesha Nunley Benjamin on Oct. 11.
  • Benjamin sent out guidance letters to all town department heads, instructing them to prepare both level-service and balanced budget scenarios. It is likely that salaries and contractual costs will increase beyond estimated revenues, so departments will have to find cost savings for the balanced-budget scenario. In addition, department heads were advised that they may be asked to provide additional budget scenarios if a multi-year override will be presented at Town Meeting. Budgets and capital project requests are due back to the Finance Department on Nov. 13.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 24: The State of the Town presentation by the town administrator and finance director. 
  • FinCom liaison meetings will start in January.
  • April 8, 2024: FinCom Town Meeting warrant for financial articles 

Additional points raised during the budget discussion:

  • There is currently one vacancy on the FinCom following Cameron Staples’ resignation. It is expected that the Select Board will appoint a new member in November.
  • There was discussion about the introduction of “best practices” to lower the cost of energy use.
  • Kezer stated the aspirational goal to establish financial policies concerning the division of revenue between the schools and the town. Currently, the town budget includes benefit costs going to school personnel. These may be moved to the school budget as it has line-item flexibility and would be able to move any unused indirect costs to other budget items. The town does not have this flexibility.
  • Shotmeyer expressed his disappointment that the override budget was voted down by the town and asked if FinCom could be more proactive this year in educating the public about the budget. Goolsby responded that the job of the FinCom is not to “sell” the budget but to work with the departments to formulate reasonable budgets within the guidelines established by the finance director, and it is the job of the Select Board to produce the budget in the form of Article 30. Goolsby did say, however, that there could be public forums in 2024 (independent of FinCom) to discuss the structural deficit.

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