Friday, March 18, 2016
I attended my first Framingham First forum last night. There were a few residents there and one resident was concerned that his taxes had doubled in recent years. It reminded me of a question I keep hearing , namely will a change in government impact taxes? I believe it can.
Twenty five years ago when I was a member of the finance committee we were responsible for building the entire town budget. With the adoption of the CFO act in 1996 that task is now done by the town administration. Overall this was a welcome change and the right way to do things.
The current problem as I see it is vetting the budget proposals made by the administration. Town Meeting is just too big to do this effectively on every issue. Town Meeting may be able to handle the big issues at times, but a handful of small issues (i.e., a new administrative position or a new software package) add up to big money, often just as impactful in dollars as one big issue.
Town Meeting is advised by a multitude of committees that theoretically review these aspects of the budget and offer guidance. However, any one budget item may have four or five overview committees reporting with different perspectives and widely varied recommendations, further mudding the waters. A complex discussion with 216 people in intimate detail is difficult to achieve.
From my current role on a much different finance committee, I feel we have missed opportunities to save money over the last couple of years. Had we taken those opportunities we would have in turn lowered taxes. The ability to seize these chances lies with adopting a legislative branch of government that can understand and effectively scrutinize town spending. Our current structure can't do this efficiently and effectively as the financial machinations are too complex. Budget overview is a great example of why the current structure is costing us money.