Finance Committee would change greatly
By JANICE RATNER
Tuesday, March 6, 2018, Amherst Bulletin, Letter to the Editor
The Finance Committee under the current form of government and under the proposed charter differ in several ways.
Currently, the Amherst Finance Committee consists of seven, independent, unpaid members, appointed by the town moderator, for staggered, three-year terms. It is the duty of the Finance Committee to investigate and make recommendations on the budget (this year over $80 million) and all warrant articles that affect the finances of the town.
In November, based on projected revenues from the state and town, the Finance Committee issues financial guidelines for planning the next year’s budget. The Finance Committee meets year round but almost weekly from January through March, when budgets and articles are available for study.
Department heads, petitioners, the town manager, superintendent of schools, library director, and others meet separately with the Finance Committee to explain their budgets. All meetings are open to the public and are televised.
The Finance Committee prepares a written report to Town Meeting with recommendations and makes presentations at Town Meeting, which is televised. The Finance Committee is responsible for the reserve fund, usually $100,000, which is used for extraordinary or unforeseen expenditures throughout the year. Finance Committee members serve on the Joint Capital Planning Committee and Budget Coordinating Group.
In the proposed charter, the Finance Committee will be a committee of the Town Council. An unknown number of councilors will be appointed by the council president to serve on its Finance Committee. Members of the public may be appointed to this committee but they will have no vote.
When the council and then its Finance Committee receives the town manager’s budget (by May 1), which also contains the school and library budgets, the Finance Committee shall hold a public hearing on the budget with no less than 10 days notice to the public.
Within 30 days of referral to the Finance Committee, it will thoroughly review the annual budget and make a presentation and recommendation to the full council. The Finance Committee also will review any supplemental appropriations outside the annual budget process.
Please read the charter proposal carefully before voting on March 27.
The writer is vice chairwoman of the Amherst Finance Committee.