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Milton to review state recommended government changes

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  October 2, 2013 04:04 PM

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Milton officials will begin exploring over 30 suggested changes to their town government structure this week with the help of a recently released state report.

The study, conducted by the Department of Revenue free of charge, has a slew of suggestions, covering everything from increasing the town administrator’s role and responsibilities, to increasing the number of town selectmen, to a review of town bylaws.

The report is the most recent look back officials have undertaken into town functions over the last several decades. Though other studies have had sweeping changes, officials were unsure of how much change the most recent recommendations will elicit.

“How well this will be received, I’m not sure,” said Richard Neely, chairman of the Government Study Committee. “There will be people who want the existing conditions to continue and others who say it’s not enough. You’ll get a range of feeling on this.”

The committee will begin looking at the suggestions on Wednesday. In addition, the Board of Selectmen will meet on Oct. 23 to hear from the Department of Revenue the reasons behind some of the suggestions and solicit feedback from the public.

Neely said the Government Study Committee has been looking at changes to the town’s structure for the past two years.

Wanting the expertise of the Department of Revenue, and looking for the best practices of other towns, Milton asked for a Department of Revenue review.

Three months of study has lead to a 31-page document looking at the government’s structure to budget planning and financial management.

“Milton appears to be at a crossroads,” the report states. “Due to ever tightening fiscal constraints and a relatively flat management model, local officials are in the process of evaluating every aspect of municipal operations.”

The report goes on to suggest changes that may jump start that model, including giving the Town Administrator more responsibilities over town departments, giving her hiring and firing powers, and creating a new assistant town administrator for finance.

Neely said the Government Study Committee had separately recommended a strengthening of the Town Administrator’s roles.

The report also recommends expanding the size of the Board of Selectmen from three members to five.

“That’s not an automatic easy thing to do,” Neely said, noting that the change would need selectmen, town meeting, and legislative approval. “I need to be convinced that’s something we need to recommend as a committee.”

Neely said the addition of more selectmen might make sense in certain contexts, and perhaps changes should be looked at as a package deal.

“If you aren’t going to give the Board of Selectmen more responsibility, why do you need five of them? Maybe as a package some recommendations make sense together,” he said.

The report also suggests consolidating some municipal services, such as town and school information technology operations and other departments into the Department of Public Works.

The need for a long-term financial blueprint was also suggested, the Payment In Lieu of Taxes program should be formalized, reserves should be strengthened, and smaller financial management steps should be taken to resolve long outstanding deficiencies.

Neely said it would also behoove the town to take a larger view at the town’s structure, including look at the size of representative town meeting and how to improve the town meeting process.

“It’s a healthy debate that will have to take place,” Neely said.

To see the full report, click here.

To view the Government Study Committee’s most recent report, click here.

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