-By Cary Shuman
Nicholas DelVento, councilor for precinct 3, cautioned his colleagues at an April 5 Town Council meeting that they were â€œrushing throughâ€ Town Manager James McKennaâ€™s comprehensive consolidation plan for the financial offices, MIS (management information systems) offices, and building maintenance functions of the town.
Three weeks after DelVentoâ€™s now-famous pen-throwing incident, it appears that the Council will heed the councilorâ€™s advice and give it a more substantial review before voting on the plan. That review will likely include separate meetings by the Council and the School Committee and a joint meeting of the two boards. Residents would also be allowed to comment on the plan during the public speaking portions of the Council meeting.
McKennaâ€™s proposal would create an office of financial management, an office of technology (currently management information systems), and an office of facilities management. The official of financial management would include a chief financial officer, assistant chief financial officer, a school department business office manager, and a part-time internal auditor.
â€œItâ€™s an aggressive agenda, Iâ€™ll be honest with you,â€ McKenna told the Council while submitting the plan Tuesday night. â€œItâ€™s important to realize that a lot of the finance steps that we propose here will be new for us.â€
Observers of the April 5 debate on the plan sensed there was a need to get the consolidation plan passed by the Town Council and the School Committee in time for the new fiscal year budget that goes into effect on July 1, 2011.
Councilor-at-Large Philip Boncore commended McKenna for the plan and then asked whether it would be implemented at the start of the new fiscal year.
â€œFirst I want to commend the town manager for doing an excellent job putting that plan together,â€ said Boncore. â€œIâ€™m very impressed with the work the town manager put into it.
â€œAre we attempting to put this plan for the fiscal year thatâ€™s going to start? And if we are and itâ€™s going to go in to the budget, I donâ€™t think we have all that [much] time to do it. There are some financial concerns that have to be intertwined with the budget so I think we must have some kind of deadline.â€
McKenna responded that â€œit would be ideal to roll out the new plan at the beginning of the fiscal yearâ€¦because it would be tidy for us from a financial standpoint.
â€œIâ€™m submitting a budget that reflects a couple of elements of this plan going forward that could easily be redirected and not have to be something that stops the budget process in its tracks,â€ said McKenna. â€œSo you are not beholden to a fiscal deadline.â€
McKenna said once the consolidation plan is voted upon, adjustments can be made in the budget for its implementation.
Council President Jeffrey Turco suggested that the Council spend half of its next meeting discussing the consolidation plan. Turco said he would also reach out to School Committee Chairwoman Mary Lou Osborne so she could schedule a discussion of the consolidation plan.
â€œIâ€™m the lead proponent of this whole concept and I want to make sure it works and Iâ€™d rather â€“ if it takes an extra month or two months to be done â€“ I want to make sure the superintendent of schools and the town manager are comfortable with the plan, because theyâ€™re the ones that have to live it. I want to see it work, not just get passed.â€
In an interview after the meeting, DelVento welcomed the Councilâ€™s decision to look at the consolidation plan without a set deadline for its implementation.
â€œThe big concern for the consolidation plan was that we do it right â€“ we make it bullet proof; we all lay it on the table and get it all done,â€ said DelVento. â€œAnd if it takes an extra week, we can always adjust the budget for its implementation. So letâ€™s get it right, have everybody comfortable, and have a good plan [in place].â€