Monday, April 27, 2009

Board of Assessors Endorsement

The three person Board of Assessors is charged with the evaluation of all real estate and personal property in the town of Milton. Current members are Kathleen Heffernan, M. Joseph Manning, and Thomas Gunning. Mr. Gunning is running for reelection against Todd Greenwood.

Unlike many Boards in town, the Board of Assessors has had little infusion of new blood in some time. Mr. Gunning has served in this post for 42 years. While one can only marvel at the length of service and dedication to the town, it is time for someone who comes from a different generation of Milton residents to step into this role and lend their voice to the deliberations. It is true that we would be losing Mr. Gunning’s experience. On the other hand, this is one of the most experienced Boards in town. Mr. Manning has been a board member for over 50 years, first elected in 1957.

Todd Greenwood is an ideal candidate for this board. He’s a 20 year resident of the town. His children attend the public schools and he is involved in a number of social and sports activities. He represents Precinct 7 as a Town Meeting Member. He has a graduate degree in Business Administration and has spent a good part of his career working as a Quantitative Analyst for major corporations. As a demonstration of his commitment to hit the ground running should he be elected, Mr. Greenwood has already completed the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s course for Assessors.

Todd has had a difficult time engaging his opponent in a discussion of the office for which they are both running. Mr. Gunning chose not to appear at either the Milton League of Women Voters, or Milton Cable debates. This deprived the residents, especially many of the new residents who have only lived in the community for a decade of two and have never seen Mr. Gunning, from weighing the two candidates.

I think we need new energy on the Board of Assessors and I think no candidate should take the voters for granted. Please join me in voting for Todd in tomorrow’s election.

Check out Todd’s website and blog here:

By the way, GET OUT AND VOTE TOMORROW. We have an important Treasurer’s race, in which I hope you’ll support Charlie McCarthy for reasons already stated. In any event, it is your duty to vote.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Milton Town Treasurer Endorsement

For the first time in many years Milton voters will be selecting a new Town Treasurer. Running for the office being vacated by the retiring Kevin Sorgi are Janet Lorden, James McAuliffe and Charlie McCarthy.

Perhaps due to the long interval since this office was contested there seems to be a great deal of confusion about the position, its duties and responsibilities, and the types of experience best suited to the job. I’ve heard residents talk about the need for accounting experience, sophisticated investment background, and “knowledge of finance". Some people go so far as to describe what amounts to a Chief Financial Officer position.

In part the confusion emanates from the specific experience being emphasized by two of the candidates, Janet Lorden and James McAuliffe. Because their backgrounds are in finance/accounting, which they understandably tout, many voters assume that these skills are central to the function of Town Treasurer. That is not the case.

In Milton, as in most towns, financial responsibility is decentralized. Budgeting is the domain of the Finance Committee (Warrant Committee), with final approval by Town Meeting. The books are kept by the Town Accountant, who reports to the Board of Selectman through the Town Administrator. We have outside auditors who go over the books, and a bond consultant to advise on debt issuance.

The treasurer/collector (occasionally separate functions in some communities) is an operational department head. The duties include:

The billing and collection of all town taxes
The timely deposit of all collected funds
The investment of funds not needed immediately in highly safe instruments, emphasizing safety and liquidity over yield
The management of payroll and employee benefits plans
The issuance of short and long term borrowing

While there is certainly a great deal of record keeping involved, accounting is not a function of the department. The investing function is properly circumscribed by state law to ensure safety of the funds. A community, especially in these economic times, cannot be chasing high returns. If we wished to do that, we’d turn the function over to someone like Fidelity.

One unstated, but widely agreed function of the job is that of “independent watchdog”. As an independently elected town officer, the treasurer has the ability to sound the alarm without fear of job loss if he or she feels the town’s interests are being jeopardized. Consequently, the office holder should be someone the residents know and trust. Someone who has a track record of service to the town. Someone who has exhibited a concern for the community apart from any considerations of a paying job.

I believe that person is Charlie McCarthy. Jim McAuliffe and Janet Lorden are good citizens of Milton with fine backgrounds. But they seem to be running for a position that does not exist. Charlie McCarthy, on the other hands, has attributes for this job his opponents simply do not.

Consider this experience. He’s led the preparation of three town budgets. He knows more about where the money comes from and where it goes. As Selectman, he shared the ultimate role in the issuance of town debt, and worked with the current Town Treasurer and Town Accountant to prepare presentations to the bond rating agencies. Their success in obtaining an improved rating lowered substantially debt costs to the town. He had a key role in both the school building and Council on Aging building projects. He knows the functions of those departments and consultants (Selectman, Assessor, Accountant and Bond Consultant) the Treasurer works with to carry out the office’s responsibilities. And he’s run his own business, including meeting a payroll and managing staff.

If you really want a good sense for which of the candidates has the strongest grasp of the job and the specific experience appropriate to it, spend a short time viewing the Milton League of Women Voters debate and the Milton Cable debate here:

Also, check out the interview with Charlie at the blog, an excellent resource for Milton news.

I suspect you'll do as I will, and vote for Charlie McCarthy on April 28th.