Framingham’s first City budget demonstrated the strong checks and balances, division of powers, of our new charter, but leaves much room for improvement.
I applaud the Council’s effort to bring long lacking transparency, accountability and efficiency to our finances.
Our Charter is modelled after and adapted from several towns that recently became cities: Weymouth in 2000, Greenfield in 2004, and Braintree in 2008, to name a few.
Each immediately experienced greater efficiency, transparency and effectiveness in their executive function by following best practices.
While it may take us longer to get there, our executive departments are actually trending in the opposite direction.
Across the state municipalities have reduced their workforces on average by 4 percent over the past decade while we have increased ours by 12 percent, and continue to grow our workforce with no review, plan or reorganization in sight.
Consider Braintree the year they became a city, their expenditures grew by a mere $218,729 or 0.26% , and, of note, their general governmental budget dropped by 5.5 percent, all while improving their bond rating.
There is nothing more important to good schools, strong local businesses, safe neighborhoods, and improving our infrastructure than managing our budget.
We are in a period of robust economic growth and record increases in local aid, yet we still are unable to control our costs and address our lingering needs: two or three new schools, universal early childhood education, a crumbling municipal building, exposure to liability from outstanding court cases, and aging infrastructure, to name a few.
The Mayor’s budget by contrast proposed a greater increase (3.3 percent) than any other budget in the past several years. It does not reorganize departments, conduct a performance audit or follow best practices savings, and had no public input prior to filing. It is nearly impossible to argue that there is no room for additional efficiencies when departments collectively reverted nearly 3 percent of the funds budgeted to them in the previous fiscal year.
After reviewing her budget, the Council passed a budget with a zero percent increase in the tax levy and a much smaller increase in the growth of expenditures after extensive public input.
So yes, we can and must do better, much better, but that starts by putting Framingham first.
John A. Stefanini
Former Mayoral candidate, former State Representative and Framingham Selectman.
Former Framingham Charter Commission.