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Association of Town Finance Committees President Brian Boyle was the featured speaker during the association’s May 19 webinar, “Upping Your Finance Committee Game: How to Harness and Develop Volunteer Energy.”
Boyle, who serves as chair of Bolton’s Advisory Committee, has worked on two large projects in the past five years: developing and implementing financial policies for the town and updating its Master Plan. He used both as examples during his presentation.
Before tackling a project that is outside the typical scope of a finance committee’s responsibilities, Boyle said, it’s important to get to know fellow committee members: what are their strengths, availability, and priorities? When beginning a project, he said, determine what other committees or town departments it will affect, and be sure to develop relationships there. It’s important to work collaboratively, especially in smaller communities, where volunteers do much of the work on special projects.
Another important factor is timing. Summer and early fall are usually the best times for finance committees to engage in project work, before the budget season begins.
Once the finance committee decides on a project, it has to be presented to everyone involved. This may include the select board, the professional town finance staff, and the school committee. All parties should be on board before the work begins and a team is assembled.
Boyle emphasized the importance of using data and resources that are readily available online. In particular, the Division of Local Services website has a large volume of data that is searchable, making it relatively easy to find comparable communities. The DLS also offers guidance through its Technical Assistance Bureau.
When Bolton was developing a set of financial policies, Boyle said he was able to use another community’s policies as a template and adapt them to his town’s needs, rather than starting from scratch. (A list of resources can be found on the last page of Boyle’s Powerpoint presentation, below.)
Another source of support is the local regional planning agency, which may offer grants or funding to assist committees with special projects, or may be able to provide staff support to do some of the needed research or data analysis. Boyle said Bolton received significant assistance from the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission when updating its Master Plan.
Boyle encouraged attendees to make sure to mark and celebrate any successful projects and outcomes involving the finance committee. Three months after Bolton adopted its financial policies, S&P Global Ratings upgraded the town’s bond rating to AAA, citing the policies as a contributing factor. This news was featured in the local newspaper and communicated to residents in a variety of ways.
• Upping Your FinCom Game: How to Harness and Develop Volunteer Energy – presentation (4M PDF)