Fiscal Sobriety

Working with the Finance Committee
Working with the Finance Committee
What do I mean by “Fiscal Sobriety?” You could say it means not spending money like a drunken sailor, but in more genteel terms, it is simply: Always be aware of the future and be circumspect when deciding what to fund.

I’ve worked as a member of the Groton Finance Committee since June 2014, through two very challenging budget cycles.

For the FY16 budget, I had too many concerns with how the salary and benefit numbers would drive future spending. I didn’t vote against it, but I couldn’t support it. I believe that the end of the FY16 budget cycle marked the beginning of an awakening for the entire Fincom – there would be serious pitfalls if we didn’t start difficult discussions regarding wages and benefits and change our approach to budgeting.

On behalf of the Fincom, I proposed several modifications to the Town Charter that give the Finance Committee a more appropriate role in Groton’s municipal governance. We worked hard with the BoS and created better policies for managing our budgets with an eye towards the future, culminating in the commission of a sustainable municipal budget committee. The work this advisory committee will perform represents a huge opportunity to alter our current course and preserve Groton’s future.

The FY17 budget was a new process. There were a few wrinkles, and I really wanted to see a zero growth option. Finally, in March, I was convinced that the entire Fincom membership had worked hard to craft a reasonable budget for the town to consider.

My stand for fiscal responsibility has always been clear – we must halt the growth of municipal spending. Nobody has yet to prove to me why the Town has to increase its municipal budget each year, just because the levy goes up. We need to develop and enforce a policy which attempts to halt the municipal budget at near zero growth.

Our Highway department is world-class. Every dollar spent here is returned to the residents of Groton ten-fold. Our public safety is world-class, and we continue to be rated as one of the safest towns in Massachusetts. We cannot compromise DPW, Fire/EMS or Police, and we don’t have to.

I look forward to the results of the Senior Center feasibility Study.   Our seniors are a vital and vibrant part of the town, and we need to continue to embrace them and provide for them – especially as the national and local trend towards aging demographics continues.

However, we need our municipal offices to accelerate the move towards technology. We have great employees within Town Hall – but they may not have the best tools. We have an excellent Information Technology team already within Town Hall. We need to give them more resources, more investment, more guidance, and enable this department to detect and eliminate waste.  Spending problems in municipal governments, just like within a business, often results from lack of technology.  Investments in technology will allow Town Hall to increase transparency and productivity without increasing staffing levels – this is the 21st century vision that many corporations and non-profits have adopted.

If there are hard choices to be made, that’s the job. This long-term approach will help to halt the growth of municipal spending and keep all of us here, in Groton, this town that we love.