In an effort to better inform the public about how the Finance Committee works, a four-person Outreach Subcommittee is drawing up plans for a beefed-up webpage and other avenues of communication to keep the town informed.
“We are trying to communicate with residents,” said Outreach Committee Chairman Dee Ortner.
FinCom Chair Parashar Patel suggested updating the webpage with a short wrap-up of committee decisions after “consequential” meetings. He joins Ortner, Lois Wasoff and Eric Dahlberg on the subcommittee.
A so-called primer on what the FinCom does will likely be published in August. Meetings about capital spending with the town and school committees are planned for summer as well.
Outreach will include various town organizations including the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, the Council on Aging, the Concord Business Partnership, the League of Women Voters and more.
Summaries of committee votes and decisions will be posted to the FinCom webpage on the town website promptly, Patel said, including “factual summaries” of votes, with longer minutes available some time after the meeting.
“We will release ‘quick facts’,” said Ortner, after the full committee reviews the material.
Patel suggested creating a graphic timeline, or roadmap, of the FinCom budgeting process over nine months, starting in September when the committee draws up its spending guideline. He said such a “roadmap” would help the public understand how the committee works.
Wasoff said the public is informed “too late” in the process, and she encourages more participation from the public.
“We want them to weigh in and give their comments when things are going on,” said Wasoff, particularly as the budget is developed. “It’s an important area that people have feelings about. We want to help people understand our process.”
For long-range capital planning, Patel suggested issuing a memo, or primer, presenting the facts without opinion. Those projects are divided into three tiers, with tier 3 covering projects over $5 million, such as the middle school, public works and safety. Lower-cost tiers 1 and 2 projects are budgeted three to five years out. The committee wants tiers 1 and 2 projects included in long-term planning along with the bigger commitments.
Also of concern is the need to control debt, and find sources of revenue, Ortner said.
Wasoff pointed to the calculator on the town website where, by entering the cost of a project, one can see the tax implication on residents.
In other news, the FinCom discussed the idea of making its pre-Town Meeting report available online only, acknowledging that the printed report can cost up to $20,000 to print and mail to every household. But it is a bylaw that would need Town Meeting approval to amend. And the need for a hard copy is still popular, for those who do not have an internet connection or who prefer to read from a bound volume at home.
Gail Dowd, finance director, laid out the steps necessary to approve changes to the bylaw.
- Proposed warrant article would need to be submitted to the town manager’s office prior to the warrant closing.
- Proposed warrant article could be presented as part of any warrant preview meeting
- Proposed warrant article would be reviewed by town counsel as part of the legal review of the warrant
- Proposed warrant article would be scheduled for a public hearing and presentation (by either
- Finance Committee or Select Board)
- Finance Committee would make a recommendation on the article (and would be included in the
- Finance Committee Report)
- Finance Committee proposes motion to the article
- Motion would be reviewed by town counsel and moderator
- Finance Committee would make presentation on the motion and the article at Town Meeting
- Town Meeting would vote on the article
The committee’s next meeting is June 22. For supporting materials around each meeting, go to www.concordma.gov/fcmtgdocs.