Monday, September 6, 2010

A New “Game plan” for FY12?

At the Select Board meeting on August 23 there was a series of discussions that appeared to be directed at developing a new “game plan” for the upcoming FY12 budget process (see recent Buzz post- Select Board Sets FY12 Goals for meeting details).

I believe that there is a high probability that the new “Aseltine-Barkett-Swanson (A-B-S) majority” will attempt to “marginalize” and negate the influence of both Gold and Santaniello during the upcoming FY12 budget setting process.

Here are some highlights from the recent SB goal setting meeting that led me to this conclusion….
  1. The formation of a financial “subcommittee” (similar to that employed by the School Committee) was proposed to assist with the development of the town’s annual budget and with other financial issues that face the SB. Aseltine and Barkett both expressed dissatisfaction with last year’s budget process and wanted to change the methodology.

    This new subcommittee would "assist" the Town Manager by setting specific goals and then helping to work out the details. It would consist of only 2 SB members since 3 or more would represent a board quorum. SB members who are not on this subcommittee could attend as town residents but would not be able to participate directly.

    [The Town Charter states that the Town Manager not the Select Board nor this proposed SB financial subcommittee has the prime responsibility for developing a town wide budget including the school department. So what exactly will be the role of this new financial subcommittee?]

  2. Barkett also expressed a desire to rein in the activities of any “rogue” board members (was he referring to Gold + Santaniello?) who might directly interact with department heads to ask budget or other related questions. Aseltine and Barkett both favored a new SB protocol that required all information requests or questions be channeled through the SB chair and then through the Town Manager who would then ask the Dept. Head for the information. If such a protocol is adopted, members who are not on the proposed SB financial subcommittee will likely have a much more difficult time accessing budget related information since they will not be able to directly ask town department heads (Finance Director, DPW Director, Fire Chief, etc.).

During last year’s budget process, Gold was a key player in developing a FY11 budget compromise that balanced the needs of our town and which was approved at the Annual Town Meeting. He played an important role in the negotiation of a new trash collection contract that significantly reduced costs and improved service. He also identified an opportunity for a subsidized energy conservation program for town buildings that will significantly reduce energy costs.

It’s interesting that both Aseltine and Barkett voted against the FY11 budget that was approved at the Annual Town Meeting. At the time of the SB budget vote Aseltine stated that he thought the proposed town side of the budget did not go far enough in cutting town employee headcounts, increasing outsourcing or improving the sustainability of the town side of the budget for future years.

I believe that this new game plan (formation of a financial subcommittee + adoption of new information request protocol) that is supported by the A-B-S majority will be used as a strategy to marginalize the efforts of both Gold and Santaniello and shift the town’s financial resources towards the school side of the budget.

Barkett and Swanson are also the co-chairs for the School Building Committee and each has a large important commitment to the new high school project in addition to being SB members. It would seem prudent for the SB to appoint Gold and/or Santaniello to this financial subcommittee given the large amount of work involved in developing the town budget.

I hope that my speculations are proven wrong and I will watch to see what happens….

I strongly recommend that all town residents stay tuned as well.