SHIRLEY — Finance Committee Chairman Frank Kolarik was not the only one in town government to sing the praises of the former Budget Committee after its demise, but he has been among the most persistent champions of recreating it in some form.
The Budget Committee was created by the selectmen after a protracted and contentious Annual Town Meeting three years ago, when voters were asked to consider more than one version of the budget. Consisting of the selectmen and representatives of the Finance and School committees, the group met for the better part of the following year to come up with a balanced budget for the next Annual Town Meeting.
Mission accomplished, the group disbanded. Last year, the FinCom and School Committee voted to resurrect it. Selectmen did not support the idea, which subsequently withered on the vine. But it didn’t die.
The budget-building co-op Kolarik envisions now has a similar purpose and expanded purview but it is not a tri-board.
The proposed group, the Town Financial Team, is defined in a Finance Committee-drafted manual of standard operating procedures for preparing an annual town budget. Kolarik said the government study committee suggested adopting standard procedures for all operations townwide, including the budget process.
The Town Financial Team would consist of “those members of town management whose activities impact the operating budget,” including the chief financial officer, representing the selectmen; the accountant, treasurer, assessor, collector and the Finance Committee.
Kolarik underscored the need for the group in his report to the selectmen at their Feb. 14 meeting, when he updated the board on the status of the current budget and capital planning processes.
“We hope to create a Town Financial Team to approve and recommend budgets for Annual Town Meeting,” he said. As it is, some proposals go to the Finance Committee while others go to the selectmen. This group would center the review process, he said. Whether it is created or not, a budget-building schedule must be developed, Kolarik said.
From July to December, the absence of a town administrator hampered progress, but gears are turning now. In January, level-funded budgets were requested from all town departments, Kolarik said. The deadline was Feb. 14. “We’re waiting for them all to come in,” he said.