The mission of the Wayland Finance Committee Is to ensure a town operating budget and a capital spending plan that balances the demand and need for services and Infrastructure with the ability of residents across a broad financial spectrum to afford these services. To fulfill this mission, the Finance Committee defines a financial strategy for the Town, recommends a fiscally responsible operating budget and capital spending plan in accordance with that strategy, and provides factual and relevant information to residents so they can make informed decisions at Town meeting.
The primary responsibilities of the Wayland Finance Committee are to:
- Assist town entities/officials on matters which have a significant financial component.
- Prepare, submit, and present the omnibus operating budget to Annual Town Meeting.
- Prepare, submit, and present a five-year capital improvement program to Annual Town Meeting.
- Prepare and submit a "Report of the Finance Committee” to Annual Town Meeting and an Annual Report for the Annual Reports document.
- Consider articles in the Town Meeting warrant and provide reports as it deems for the best of the Town.
- Conduct a warrant article review to help ensure town officials and residents are informed about articles that are being considered at town meeting.
- Approve (or deny) requests for transfers from the Reserve Fund.
- Recommend whether to pursue a debt exclusion (as deemed advisable).
- Recommend whether to change the tax rate structure (as deemed advisable).
- Review reports on current year receipts and expenditures vs. budget and recommend corrective actions (as deemed advisable).
Goal: Establish guidelines for operating budgets and capital projects.
- Manage debt service policy to 10% and trend downward.
- Manage operating budget increases to 2 5%
- Manage additional capital spending and resulting borrowing to not exceed $5 million.
- Minimize: additional headcount.
- Maintain AAA rating
Goal: Implement process and procedure for the ongoing review and oversight of municipal budgets and department operations, and reporting.
- Include school budget in quarterly operating budget review.
- Include as part of capital planning process a 1-year capital plan and a 5-year capital program and publish results in the warrant.
- Complete and close capital budget by 12/15/2016
- Complete and close operating budget by 2/5/2016.
- Follow and adhere to bylaws.
- Provide method for public access and distribution of meeting information.
The Financial Strategy is intended to be used by the Finance Committee in reviewing and recommending budgets, by the Board of Selectmen and other executive bodies in preparing budgets, and by Town Meeting in evaluating and approving budgets,
Commitment to Transparency and Best Practices for Financial Reporting. The Town is committed to follow best practice as it relates to the preparation and dissemination of financial statements for town governments.
This includes the annual issuance of the "Comprehensive Annual Financial Report." This report is prepared in conformity with GAAP principles and subject to an independent audit. The Independent auditor opines on the fair presentation of the financial statements as well as the quality of internal controls and compliance with statutes.
Best practices also includes a commitment to accurately forecasting revenue and expenditures, with periodic revisions to reflect emerging events. Our Finance Director is charged with publishing a Budget Status Report for the General Fund as well as the Enterprise Funds, on at least a quarterly basis, showing sources and uses of expenditures and revenues. Such periodic monitoring of actual-to-expected results are indispensable for managing a balanced budget.
In general it is good practice to match operating revenues to operating expenditures over time. It is poor practice to consistently cover operating expenses with surplus free cash.
Commitment to Financial Strength and Flexibility. The Town Is committed to remaining financially strong and flexible so as to pay its debts, continue to provide essential services, and maintain appropriate infrastructure even through severe economic cycles, which can result in a decline of the tax base or higher unemployment rates with resultant greater tax delinquencies.
An objective and independent measure of whether a town meets the objective of being fiscally strong and flexible is our very strong credit rating from Moody's. As a general rule, our goal is to manage the variables that are in our control at levels sufficient to retain our very strong credit rating. And to better ensure that we maintain our strong financial strength, the Town will follow policies that are tailored to address the following constraints·
Flexibility to raise revenues.
In Massachusetts, our revenue raising potential is constrained by Proposition 2 1/2 which limits the increase in property taxes unless overridden by a majority vote at a Town election. In addition, the property tax rate is established as part of the budget cycle and cannot be increased to offset unanticipated expenses that happen during the cycle. These constraints on our flexibility argue for staying below our levy limit to provide a cushion if unforeseen events should mandate an increase in property tax revenue.
Flexibility to lower expenses.
Many of our expenses are in the nature of fixed costs which limit our flexibility for lowering expenses, at least in the short term. As a result, we need to maintain adequate levels of General Fund balances, free cash and other reserves to meet existing obligations as well as providing liquidity for unanticipated obligations
Predictability of revenue and expenditures.
Most of our revenue comes from the property tax levy, which is highly (but not completely) predictable. (E.G. Tax delinquencies increased 1% during the 2008 recession and the unemployment rate increased by over 3% from before and after the recession.) Other revenue sources are also fairly predictable, but less so than the tax levy. This argues for keeping our fixed costs, like debt service expenditures, within prudent norms.
Our expenditures are also highly (but not completely) predictable. Pensions and health benefits as a share of total expenditure have been going up. Heavy winters, natural disasters, unsettled labor contracts, and pending litigation can also cause unexpected expenses. So, to better ensure our ability to weather these variations in expenditures, we need to maintain adequate levels of General Fund balances, free cash assets and other reserves.
Commitment to Prudent Capital Planning. Capital assets, which are assets that have an extended useful life, are funded with debt whose term matches the anticipated useful life of the asset being funded. This has the virtue of charging the expense of an asset equitably to the generation of taxpayers who derive its benefits. The total debt burden, which includes the unfunded liability for pensions, is a measure of the Town's financial leverage and must be managed prudently. Excessive leverage increases costs and limits future flexibility. Each year, the Town develops a five year capital improvement plan to better ensure that debt limit constraints are prudently managed.
Specific details and metrics for the implementation of prudent capital planning are contained in our Debt-Management Policy document.