By Meredith McCulloch
Barbara Perry has been a member of the Finance Committee since 1991, committing most of her Thursday nights over 24 years to serving the town. When asked why she gave so much of her time, Perry said, “I like to contribute where my skills are useful.” Her skills in mathematics and analysis have been very useful during her service on the Finance Committee. She was a math major at Tufts and Boston University and became a computer programmer right out of college, at a time when that was a relatively uncommon profession. After working at several small start-ups, Barbara spent 26 years at Raytheon; she coded in high level languages as well as assembly and machine languages and broadened her experience performing all aspects of software engineering. She came to Bedford in 1964 and raised four sons here.
Asked about her hopes for the town, she said “One of the things I really like about Bedford is open town meeting. It would be wonderful if more people came to town meeting and took an interest in the finances of the town.” She went on to say, “Town Meeting is participatory. Voters can ask anything about the issues they want. And I love the tradition of Annual Town Meeting opening with the Bedford Minutemen parading down the aisle and posting the flags.” Most of all she hopes that other residents will volunteer for town committees.
As she ends 24 years on the Bedford Finance Committee, Perry looks back on many changes and much progress. She commends town management for always seeking ways to improve. The first change she names is that now needed information is available on computers. There are no more “big budget books” for each committee member as most access documents on their computer or tablet. A second change is improved budget structure, such as merging small budgets into similar but larger ones. “The Finance Committee can always get any information it needs,” she explained, and online access to documentation prior to meetings enables members to prepare in advance. She noted that the committee gets excellent support from the staff and is proud that the town maintains a AAA bond rating, one of about 50 municipalities in the state to achieve that rating. That excellent rating allows the town to borrow at a lower rate, resulting in big savings.
Another big change has been the Community Preservation Act. It has enabled funding of desirable but otherwise unaffordable projects, including partial funding for renovation of historic buildings like Town Hall and Town Center.
Perry enjoyed serving as the Finance Committee liaison to many boards and committees, most recently to the Capital Expenditures Committee. She is pleased with the Town’s acquisition of a software system that tracks the town’s property and other assets. “By taking advantage of what the software has to offer, the committee doesn’t need to rank capital requests individually each year, and can see project requests for the next six years.” It allows better coordination of capital needs and improves the budget process.
Her term is ending June 30, but under the Town by-laws, she will continue until a replacement is found. The Volunteer Coordinating Committee will select up to three candidates to propose. The appointment is made by the Finance Committee Appointing Authority that consists of the Chair of Selectmen, the Chair of the Finance Committee and the Town Moderator.