Friday, December 19, 2003
Selectmen support Finance Department reorganization
Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie and Treasurer Larry Barton presented a reorganization plan for the Carlisle Finance Department at the Board of Selectmen meeting on December 9. After looking at other communities, speaking with the town auditors, talking with neighboring Finance Directors, and getting inputs from town departments, they offered what they called a "transformational paradigm." This may have been prompted by the town auditors finding that FY03 has as many problems as FY02 and that most of their recommendations have not been met. (See story this page.)
Despite the grandiose title, this reorganization is expected to be the final step into modern municipal financial management. Key to the proposed reorganization is the establishment of a new position of Finance Director/Treasurer/Tax Collector reporting to the Town Administrator. This Finance Director would work in an advisory capacity with the Finance Committee and other independent boards and committees that deal with financial matters to provide fiscal oversight and overall coordination of town financial matters.
Supporting the new Finance Director would be an Assistant Treasurer/Tax Collector similar to the current position except that it would be increased to a 35-hour week. Also working under the direction of the Finance Director is the 30-hour-a-week position of Town Accountant. The position of Tax Collection Clerk remains an eight-hour-a-week job.
A new position of Human Resource/Town Accountant Assistant would be established as of January 1, 2005. This would be a part-time job (less than 20 hours per week) under the direction of the Finance Director with the responsibilities of processing the payroll from time cards to check delivery, working with employees to set up benefits, administration of the benefits package including retirement, and assisting the Town Accountant.
McKenzie and Barton were unable to provide an exact number for the cost of implementing these recommen-dations. Some of the positions are currently in the grades being reviewed this year under the wage and classification plan, so a portion of the cost would be absorbed through this increase. The Assistant Treasurer/Tax Collector position will be an increase of approximately $10,000 and become a salaried position. The combined Finance Director/Treasurer/Tax Collector will result in a $13,000 increase, and the impact of the new Human Resource/ Town Accountant Assistant will be about $15,000 a year minus the current amount budgeted for a Town Accountant Assistant of $5,500. The total increase could end up somewhere in the vicinity of $30,000.
"Over the past several years, we have found that the current method of operation for the Finance Department has been inadequate to meet the current needs of the town," concluded McKenzie. "What we are proposing is to bring the Finance Department up to the standards expected by this community and to ensure for the future that the town is getting the best and most accurate financial information and advice possible."
Selectman Tony Allison had some serious reservations about the chain of command and concentration of power. "We can't have the Finance Director in charge of everything," he said. "Somebody should be reviewing on a quarterly basis what's going on." He would be more comfortable if the Town Treasurer reported to the Board of Selectmen. "Then I'm 100% behind everything else." But Selectman Vivian Chaput noted the difference between corporate and municipal management. "There's a whole different set of rules entirely for town government, which operates under laws," she said. John Ballantine had more basic concerns. "Are we adding $30,000 for people to do what they already should be doing?" he wondered. Ballantine was assured that the town will now have the resources and coordinated information needed to make wise financial decisions and that alone is worth the extra cost.
Lisa Jensen-Fellows, Chair of the Finance Committee, declared, "FinCom is supportive. We need timely and accurate information to do our job." Chaput observed that the proposed reorganization closely follows the Carlisle 2000 report. "This is a direct reflection of what was recommended," she said. Chair Tim Hult praised the reorganization with its better coordination, and thanked McKenzie and Barton for their efforts. He recommended that the pair discuss the concerns raised during the meeting with the town auditors before the Selectmen vote on approval of the reorganization. "However," Hult concluded, "we feel comfortable now to go out and advertise for a Town Accountant."
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