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“Internal Team Approach” to Evaluate Major Spending

The way in which major spending requests by departments under the Board of Selectmen are evaluated is changing to an integrated "internal team approach," Finance Director Zachary Taylor briefed the Board of Selectmen on January 25.

Taylor said he and Town Administrator Richard Villani are completing the development of an internal review process to ensure that any department under the board's jurisdiction that is requesting an appropriation for a major expense has that request fully "vetted" before the request goes on the town's five-year capital expenditures plan.

Also, Taylor explained, resources will be made available to help department heads plan for something outside their usual areas of expertise. For example, he said, the Senior Center Director should not develop an estimate for a roof replacement without the help of the Town Engineer or Facilities Supervisor, he said.

In addition to helping the department heads, the new approach also will let himself or Villani to discuss the spending request in depth with the Finance Committee if a department head is unavailable.

Chairman Brian Murray said this approach, coupled with the Finance Committee's five-year capital spending plan, provides a "cohesive" look at "the big picture." He noted, "It gives everyone a complete sense of what's here before us and what's on the horizon for expenses."

"It's certainly something I've been asking for, for a long time," Selectman William Buckley said. The process will help reduce departments competing against other departments for available dollars and should stop the question of "How does the Board of Selectmen feel about this?" from being asked when a request goes before the Finance Committee, he said.

"A process is coming together," commented Selectman William Kingkade, noting that it's often hard to change the "culture" of how things are done in the public sector. "Our Senior Center Director should not be buying a roof," he said.

"I've got to say, as Finance Director, the phrase I hate the most is 'past practice,'" Taylor said.

Murray noted that employees are not being discouraged from talking to the Finance Committee or making capital spending requests. The next step, he said, should be to remove items from the five-year plan that really aren't capital spending requests and placing them in the proper budget category.

Buckley said he'd like to see a similar process take place to accurately account for all costs involved – including benefits and pension obligations – when a request is made to create a new position. Taylor responded that he and Villani already were working on that process.

Villani said he planned to bring the completed process to the board or review at its February 22 meeting.


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