Each year the Town Council creates budget guidelines and Councilors can present their proposals for the budget during hearings of the Budget and Fiscal Oversight Committee. However, why some proposals make it and some do not is not always clear.
In the presentation at last week’s Town Council meeting, Councilor Vincent Piccirilli said the Budget and Fiscal Oversight subcommittee does not decide whether each request is a good idea or not but rather acts as an editor to take input from Town Councilors and “synthesize it into a concise, actionable document for the Manager.” (Click here to see the budget guidelines report).
“The Committee may decide to not include a request because it requires policy direction from the Council before the Manager can include it in the operating budget; because it is too ambiguous to be included in the operating budget; because it is part of the Capital Improvement Program and not the operating budget; because it is within the authority of another elected body who has not weighed in it; or because it overlaps with other existing goals or requests,” Piccirilli was quoted as saying in the committee report.
Councilor Tony Palomba said that he has been frustrated with his efforts to get items into the budget. He brought up issues of creating town-wide parking permits and making a climate action plan during the hearings, but they did not make the list.
“It seems like this is the one chance to tell the Town Manager what I think is important,” Palomba said. “To me there is a very thin line between something that is a policy and something that is a guideline.”
He noted that some things might be policies, but would also require dollars to follow through on them.
Councilor Aaron Dushku said he was frustrated to have some items miss making the list because they remain unresolved in a Council subcommittee. Examples he gave were changing the parking meter rates, and funding for extending the Community Path.
“The same thing with the town beautification,” Dushku said. “It is a matter in front of the (Public Works) committee, and is a long standing item. The committee is waiting to hear from (town staff).”
Piccirilli said that budget must include items that the staff can complete during the year, adding that the tasks must be “achievable.”
One item on the list that bothered Councilor Michael Dattoli was the review of the Public Safety study.
“Is that the one done by Matrix?” Dattoli said. “There have been a lot of changes since that time: there is a new Police Chief, the Marathon Bombing and the opiate epidemic.”
Council President Mark Sideris said these issues have arisen in prior years and he proposed having a Council subcommittee look at ways that Councilors can introduce new items to have them eventually included in the budget.