Finance Committee Reflects on Annual Town Meeting and Fiscal Year 2018

By Lizzie Seibert

In its first discussion since the March Annual Town Meeting, the Finance Committee reflected on its budget recommendation process and set goals for upcoming summer meetings.

First, the Committee reorganized for the new year and voted Ben Thomas as chair, Elizabeth McClung as vice-chair, and Paul Mortenson as clerk. The Committee additionally noted that it still has an opening for an additional member, after the death of Rich Bowen earlier this year.

Thomas stated that a major goal of his for next year’s annual town meeting is to create a budget for each town department’s water usage. Town Treasurer Victor Garafolo noted that he is already looking at communities surrounding Bedford, comparing their water rates, and plans to study water usage in Bedford this summer.

The Finance Committee decided to start by researching each town department’s budget to gauge what departments spend on water.

When discussing potential financial policy changes, David Powell said that he would like the committee to have a philosophical discussion about the large amount of free cash in Bedford’s budget and whether this warrants a less conservative budgetary approach.

The Finance Committee discussed the outcome of Town Meeting, and decided it would like to educate Bedford about its positions on town articles, both at Town Meeting and beforehand. At Mortenson’s suggestion, the Committee is considering writing majority opinions and dissenting opinions after each vote to recommend or disapprove an article at Town Meeting. The Committee agreed that for this to be effective, the budgetary process will need to begin earlier than in the past.

Chairman Thomas finished the meeting by stating he thought FY 18’s budgetary process was an improvement from earlier years because the committee was so well prepared. “That’s the best we can do,” he stated, “People were happy with what they saw.”

At its next meeting on May 25, the Committee will discuss whether to be more liberal with the budgetary guidelines and will consider specific approaches to budgeting town departments’ water usage.

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