The Finance Committee pursued its agenda of transparency by presenting a timeline of the annual budget process, among other means of communication.
“We want to change the way we work,” said Dee Ortner, a member of the new Communications Task Force.
Committee Chairman Parashar Patel offered a graphic timeline, which starts in the summer with a “big picture” of how the guideline process works and its implications to the budgets prepared by the schools, town operations including public works and safety, and taxpayers.
In the fall, the timeline calls for “Capital Plan basics” for the fiscal year, and metrics for the budget guideline which will be applied to town and school totals. Final guidelines are generated toward the end of the calendar year.
The committee plans to schedule meetings with various town organizations to explain how the guideline works and the role of the committee. It also plans to beef up the FinCom page on the town website and distribute budget-related materials through the Town Manager’s weekly email.
Capital spending explained
According to Patel’s document, the Town Manager presents a five-year capital improvement plan, separate from the operating budget. The plan is divided into tiers: tiers 1 and 2 include projects that are funded within the levy limit annually. For those over $5 million, a debt exclusion is required.
This year and in the future, the Task Force recommends that all three tiers of capital spending be”synchronized” to allow for maximum citizen input.
In early September, departments submit requests to the Finance Department for current fiscal year and five-year projects. Later in the fall, the town manager submits her recommendation to the Select Board as part of the annual budget. In December, the draft annual town budget will be posted on the town website.
For the school budgets,capital projects are reviewed at each school by the end of August. At the end of the calendar year, the Concord Public School and regional high school capital projects are voted on by the School Committee and presented to the FinCom and Select Board.
Existing school projects in tiers 1 and 2 include environmental concerns, painting, flooring, carpeting, fields and playgrounds, gyms and buses, among a list of items that are less than $5 million.
FinCom priorities for the coming year include three areas: sustainable revenue growth; capital; spending and planning; and outreach and communications.
The next meeting is July 13 at 7 p.m.