Minutes of the Finance Committee
January 8, 2001

In attendance: members Farley, Nash, Raymond, Roberts, Vogt

Chair Vogt called meeting to order 6:50 pm.

Minutes of Previous Meetings

Minutes not available; agenda item tabled.

Reserve Fund Transfer

A request for transfer of $317.29 from Reserve Fund to Legal Counsel Services line was approved unanimously. The bill paid by this transfer brings the balance in this budget line item to zero.

Current Year Budget to Date

Committee reviewed the accountant statement of current year expenditure to date.

Economic Forecast

Ms. Vogt distributed an article retrieved from the Boston Globe Online by Mr. Farley predicting economic downturn and particular issues facing the state of Massachusetts with income tax rollback and big dig expenditures depleting funds available for towns. There was discussion about what this might mean for Ashby. Members expressed concern, especially since the town has not yet certified its free cash which might mean an additional $263,000+ not available for this year’s expenses.

Discussion on Budget Requests

Ms. Vogt distributed the BOS’s confidential first pass at wages and salary suggestions for FY01. It is apparent BOS is most interested in raising pay for town employees with perhaps our last "windfall" of free cash from previous years. Mr. Farley expressed concern over raising expectations for employees: would they expect to have such generous raises in the future and would not receiving them make them disgruntled?

Ms. Raymond looked at last few years’ wages and stipends , and found they represented nearly 20% of the total budget since 1999. Actual percentages have been 1999 at 20%, 2000 at 19.25%, 2001 at 19.68%. Requests from department heads would put wages at 22.56% but as tempered by selectmen at 19.75%.

Ms. Vogt reminded members that predicted revenue increases for FY02 are 3.6% and asked members to consider how we might encourage department heads to help us come up with a balanced budget.

Saturday’s Meeting with Department Heads

Ms. Raymond said she would not be able to attend so there was a discussion about whether to use a flip chart at the meeting. It was agreed the chart should be there, and we would see how useful it became.

In response to questions by Ms. Vogt, committee members brainstormed questions to ask Department Heads at the request review meeting. Mr. Farley suggested asking the question: "Apart from changes in wages, what do you need to make your department more efficient?" It was agreed this was a good generic question to ask throughout the meetings. Other considerations were whether we should ask managers to participate in the SWOT workshop model, whether to ask about outside influences on their departments (growth, etc.). It was agreed that a full management consultancy was not in order, but that the general question of how to make the department more efficient would bring insight to the discussion for FinCom at this point. The flip chart will be used to ask FinCom questions already noted on spreadsheet, along with the generic "efficiency" question.

Ms. Vogt will buy refreshments from FinCom expense line for Saturday’s meeting and will borrow a flip chart. The meeting will be held in FinCom’s usual meeting room, rather than in selectmen’s office.

Letter from Highway Superintendent

Bill Davis sent a letter to FinCom reporting on accidental damage to a town dump truck. He said the equipment repair had not been budgeted so the letter warned FinCom he might experience a shortfall in the equipment expenses line before the end of the fiscal year.

Other Business

Estate Bequest Mismanagement. Ms. Vogt said BOS had asked FinCom for volunteers to trace the history of a bequest which BOS suspected had been mismanaged. An estate bequest to the town of $27,000 in 1903 was currently worth only $62,000. BOS were concerned about what had happened to the money and wanted an investigation. Ms. Raymond said she felt it would be a waste of FinCom’s time to uncover what was most likely just bad management of the funds. It was more important to look at how funds are currently being invested to keep this from happening in the future. Members present agreed.

The Beacon. Ms. Vogt said this issue of MMA’s The Beacon was particularly useful and recommended committee read it, in hard copy or online at www.mma.org.

After the Budget. Mr. Farley asked about the calendar and FinCom’s responsibilities after the budget is built and approved by BOS and FinCom prior to Town Meeting. He said he hoped FinCom could use that downtime of the year to take a more proactive approach toward financial management issues facing the town.


Meeting adjourned at 9:00 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Peggy Roberts,