SHIRLEY — Finance Committee Chairman Frank Kolarik asked the School Committee at its Aug. 25 meeting to back the formation of a TriBoard consisting of the finance and school committees and selectmen. His board already supports it, he said.
But selectmen are still on the fence.
When Kolarik pitched the idea to selectmen at their last meeting, members were split but did not vote. Selectman David Swain said he supported the TriBoard. Selectman Andy Deveau said he did not. Chairman Kendra Dumont wanted to see written details of Ayer’s TriBoard structure, which Kolarik said could be a model for Shirley.
Former Selectman Enrico Cappucci spoke against it, stating that the FinCom should stick to budget analysis and leave town management to elected officials and decisions to Town Meeting.
Kolarik didn’t seem discouraged. At the School Committee meeting, he gave the selectmen’s tepid response an optimistic spin: If they’re not ready to say yes, at least they didn’t say no. Basically, the selectmen want more information, he said.
Kolarik’s sketch of the new group brought back ghosts of the old Budget Committee, which the finance and school committees called for reconstituting last year.
The selectmen nixed that effort, citing more negatives than positives in the plan.
But the new and improved TriBoard the FinCom is touting this time would have a broader focus and more inclusive structure, tentatively based on a successful model in Ayer.
The Budget Committee consisted of representatives from the finance and school committees and the full Board of Selectmen, under whose auspices it was formed and functioned, with the town administrator, school superintendent and business manager as nonvoting advisers. Its sole purpose was to take a balanced budget all three boards agreed on to annual Town Meeting in 2009, thus avoiding the confusing presentation of the previous year’s meeting, which lasted several days. The committee disbanded in April 2009 after achieving its goal.
Kolarik explained that the new TriBoard is a different animal. It will not vote, he said, but will consider issues of common interest and concern — in public — so that all three boards are on the same page. They would take in the same data, discuss and debate the issues, air differences, but each board would deliberate separately on voting matters, he said.
He listed topics the TriBboard would likely take up, such as a strategic plan for the future.
“The town has been putting out fires too long,” he said.
The docket would also include a five-year financial plan.
“That calls for input from a lot of people,” he said, including boards and departments. As he sees it, the TriBoard could be a hub where it all comes together. It could form subcommittees to focus on issues — for example, the “big impact” the new Ayer-Shirley Regional School District will have on the town. It could help with the realignment process, Kolarik said.
Kolarik said the Finance Committee is preparing a “draft charter” for the TriBoard. Superintendent Malcolm Reid recommended the committee base its final decision — whether or not to back the TriBoard plan — on that charter. For now, he suggested they vote on the “concept,” as presented. They did, voting unanimously in its favor.