History and Context Behind Unbalanced FY 14 Budget

By Mike Flaherty | Apr 22, 2013
Finance Committee Member, Frank Heath

I thought about posting this as a comment under the "Finance Committee will ask voters to pass unbalanced budget in effort to buy time" discussion, but I felt it warranted its own topic.


One of the things that I'm sure is frustrating for newspaper reporters is that they are very limited in how much they can write on the printed page.  Wareham has so many boards and committees and so much important information is discussed during them that it would be impossible to give them all the space they deserve.


That's why it is so great that WCTV puts whatever they can on YouTube (and Dave DiPietro before them).  If anyone really wants to get a candid sense of what is going on in the Town, then start watching Finance Committee meetings - beginning to end.


Naturally, the reaction to the FinCom advancing an unbalanced budget and hashing it out later (within 60 days) has drawn much criticism from readers.  On its face if all I had to go on was a single newspaper article dated April 17, 2013, then I would be critical too. 


The truth is, however, that this situation didn't occur overnight or in a vacuum.  There is much history that went into this decision.


Fortunately, three years of that history have been condensed into six minutes given the interaction between my colleague, Dr. Sylvia, and Finance Committee member, Frank Heath at the Joint Meeting held April 17, 2013.


If you plan on attending Town Meeting tonight, please take 6 minutes of your time today to listen to learn what brought us all to this point.


The 6-minute video may be found Here.


It is excerpted from the full video of the Joint Meeting between the FinCom/BOS/SC, which can be found Here.


Note: Any opinions expressed here are my own and I am not speaking for any groups or organizations that I may be a member of.

Comments (6)
Posted by: Marilyn Donahue | Apr 22, 2013 15:57

Thank you for posting this Mike.  I would like to add that it is equally frustrating for members of the finance committee to meet week after week discussing important issues - with only a few members of the community in attendance and no coverage from the press. We have talked about getting more information into the papers ourselves, but that presents challenges as many issues are complex and do require further information which isn't always available at our meetings. In addition, the finance committee does not always reach a consensus and I would not want to misrepresent any individual's view. 

We do however agree with the problems in the FY2014 budget as presented, starting with the ommission of capital items.  When the TA prepared this budget he gave specific instructions to dept heads to submit a level funded budget.  When we met with the department heads, one of the questions we asked was what problems they forsaw and what services would be lost under this budget and what opportunites for increasing revenues were being missed. The answers were sobering.  There is a perception that there is plenty of money out there to run the town and the school.  I would request that those people who know where that money is step forward and apply for a position on the finance committee. Maybe we have cried poor too many times, perhaps we have used one-time fixes to squeak out another year, and since the town is still running the voters do not understand the critical decisions we will be making in the next year or two.  

In the meantime, we, as a community, need to define our priorites. By our charter, that is not the role of the town administrator or the finance committee, but the role of the board of selectmen.  They are elected representatives and should have a sense of where the town is going.  The fincom can advise as to the consquences of the decisions, but they are not our decisions to make.  That power ultimately lies with the voters.  Please attend town meeting, make your opinions known and give us time to find the best way to make them happen.

Posted by: Zephyr | Apr 22, 2013 18:01

Hi Marilyn, Does the Finance Committee post their minutes on the Town's web site?  I haven't been able to find anything.   Thanks.

Posted by: Voter | Apr 23, 2013 08:59

I see this strategy as a symptom of a greater problem. For years this process has managed quite well.  In most recent years, its failed miserably.  Why is it that Wareham's leadership seems unable to come together to get the job done as laid out in the Charter ?

I'm very discouraged by our poor decision making from hiring and firing and the evident inability to work together to get the job done !

Posted by: warehamite | Apr 23, 2013 10:30

I think we've been kicking the proverbial "can down the road" for awhile and are now bouncing it off the brick wall.  It's time to make the tough decisions and cut the budget, and no one wants to actually do it!!

Posted by: Marilyn Donahue | Apr 23, 2013 11:57

We did have our minutes posted, but when I looked I found they haven't been updated since January.  I will check with the town clerk's office to see what the problem is.  I don't know if this link will work, but you can look under "Board and Committees" Finance Committee and find the link there.


Posted by: Marilyn Donahue | Apr 23, 2013 12:07

VOTER - The process worked well when there was sufficient money to run the town, but we are well beyond that.  When your expenses grow at a rate that outpaces your ability to pay for them, you have to make the tough decisions. At the same time you should be looking to find a way to improve the situation in the future. That isn't being done in Wareham.

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