Mayor Spicer Says Council Budget Order ‘Falls Disappointingly Short’ But She Won’t Veto It

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FRAMINGHAM – The City Council recently passed an ordinance creating four budget meetings between the city legislative branch the City’s executive branch.

But Mayor Spicer said the ordinance falls short of its goal, but she will not veto it.

“I recently received and reviewed the Council’s order regarding the creation of a budget forum process for the City Council. I welcome any sincere collaborative effort by the City Council to work with the City administration regarding Framingham’s fiscal planning. The forum concept relayed in the process proposed by the Council in the attached order, however, falls disappointingly short of that goal. Instead, it continues cumbersome reporting requirements harkening back to those that existed under the Town Meeting form of government,” wrote Mayor Spicer to City Council Chair George P. King Jr. and the other 10 Councilors this morning, April 14.

“Like those arcane requirements, which, along with other inefficiencies helped lead to the passage of the Framingham Home Rule Charter and our transition to a city, the reporting directives in this ordinance from the Council similarly place a heavy and repetitive workload on City division heads, and the CFO and her staff, in particular, taking them away from their day-to-day duties, with little to no improvement in the overall budget process in exchange,” wrote the Mayor to the City Council.

“Creating additional reporting on revenue forecasts in the March forum is duplicative when the Council will receive the revenue forecast as part of the budget at the end of April/beginning of May as part of the budget process,” is one example wrote the Mayor.

“The ordinance seeks to require a significant and extraordinary new report in April which uses vague and undefined terms of “efficacy” and “efficiency” as they relate to nine years of budget appropriations at a time when the Finance staff is at its most demanding period developing the next fiscal year budget,” wrote the Mayor.

“The November report is part of the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) which lays out a five-year plan for the City’s real estate and other fixed assets in a manner which is a best practice among municipalities,” wrote Mayor Spicer to the City Council.

“The August report requirement misstates the Allotment process defined in the charter. The allotment requirement is applied only to personnel costs, not operating costs. The allotments are quarterly, not monthly, and are not by program. The reporting requirement would redefine the process in the Charter which is under the authority and discretion of the CFO,” wrote Mayor Spicer today.

One of the central purposes of both the general law and the Charter provisions regarding the annual budget process is to provide adequate time for the Mayor, along with City division heads and the CFO, to develop a comprehensive budget submission in the fiscal cycle that addresses the priorities that I believe to be in the best interest of the City and its residents, who placed their trust in me by electing me as your Mayor. The City Council’s role is to review and act upon that proposed budget in line with the priorities that the Council collectively decides it believes to be in the best interest of the
City and its constituents who have similarly placed their trust in you. There are times when we do not agree on what those priorities are and should be, that is the nature of our democratic form of government, but we all have to follow the process,” wrote Mayor Spicer.

“I believe the Council’s intentions here are in the right place. For that reason, I have decided not to veto the order, and my administration will work in good faith with the Council on the forum concept set forth in this ordinance and will comply with it to the extent feasible and permissible under the Charter,” wrote Mayor Spicer to the Councilors.

“However, I do have misgivings about the concept as currently developed by the Council, so I cannot in keeping with my duties as Mayor to enforce the Charter approve it either. Please note that I specifically object to this ordinance to the extent the Council intends to use it to attempt to obtain production of the Mayor’s annual budget or supporting materials before the May 1st date set forth in Article VI, Section 3 of the Charter, or attempts to modify the process for allotments set forth in Article VI, Section 7 of the Charter. Any changes to the budget submission deadline must be made by amending the Charter pursuant to the periodic review required to be undertaken in 2023 pursuant to Article, IX, Section 5. I also disagree with the ordinance to the extent it purports to require information from the executive branch in a manner inconsistent with the process the Council is required to follow under Article II, Section 7 of the Charter when it wants to request information from myself or other City officials,” wrote the Mayor.

“The budget process set forth in the Charter, as we’ve all experienced over the past several years, is not perfect. While I look forward to discussions during the periodic review of the Charter coming up in 2023 on ways to improve the process for future fiscal years, these improvements should be developed by the administration and the Council working together, not by unilateral action like this from the Council,” concluded Mayor Spicer.

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