At a recent meeting held on Sept. 5, the North Adams Finance Committee met to act on City Councilor John Barrett’s request for the Finance Committee to review the policies and procedures in their handling the fiscal 2013 budget.
The Finance Committee should be applauded for acknowledging the fact there were several errors and discrepancies in the budget, and finally admitting Mayor Alcombright’s failure to submit the compensation plan for the committee to review.
However, at that meeting, after acknowledging those errors had indeed occurred by what appears to be a very flawed process, the Finance Committee continued on to a predictable yet disappointing 3-0 vote to approve keeping the current policies and procedures in place.
At the City Council meeting held Tuesday, Sept. 11, Finance Committee member Councilor Lisa Blackmer described the meeting as a compromise. In my opinion that couldn’t be further from the truth.
It is incomprehensible to think that, after a budget process which was immensely flawed, the Finance Committee was unable to recommend a single policy or procedure change to improve the process.
In 2010 at the request of Mayor Alcombright, a report was compiled by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Division of Local Services. The objective of the report was a financial management review of the city. The report outlined 30 recommendations based on best management practices that comply with state laws and regulations. In the report, the DLS encouraged the mayor and City Council to consider the observations, analyses and recommendations in the report.
I ask, exactly how many of these recommendations have been implemented by the city? Is the Finance Committee even aware of the report? As we move forward, the 3-0 vote may have flown under the radar for those who do not have an interest in the city’s budgetary process or how their tax dollars are spent. But for those of us who have kept a keen eye on a shrinking tax base and a continued escalation of property taxes each year under the Alcombright administration, it raised many eyebrows.
The 3-0 vote is a signal to the taxpayer that it will be business as usual by the current Finance Committee. The message sent by the committee indicates the process will remain status quo, thus allowing the mayor to submit future flawed draft budgets, while allowing the mayor to have carte blanche over all budgetary matters.
With the Finance Committee’s lack of action at the Sept. 5 meeting, they have once again failed the residents and taxpayers of North Adams, as they have neglected their obligatory duties as a governing body elected by the people to be the checks and balance over the budgetary process. It appears the future role of the current Finance Committee will be irrelevant, simply a committee of dotting the i’s, and crossing the t’s for the mayor.