Historic Changes Proposed For Belmont Government, Budget Process As Town Facing ’Serious Financial Difficulties’

Photo: The Collins Center’s Stephen Cirillo

Stephen Cirillo did not mince words: an on-going structural deficit will result in Belmont “facing a significant financial challenge” in the next years.

Yet Cirillo’s statement was hardly a Cassandra-like message; everyone knows it’s only so true. In fact, Cirillo has been before the town for the past four years sounding that same alarm and voters passed a Proposition 2 1/2 override in 2015 to fill the town’s coffer emptied by an earlier fiscal imbalance. But in a damning review of the town’s financial structure by the Edward J. Collins, Jr. Center for Public Management at UMass Boston presented before a joint hybrid meeting of the town’s major committees and boards on Wednesday, Aug. 3, the ability of Belmont’s leaders to effectively face the current fiscal precipice is hindered by an antiquated governmental framework that mutes any opportunity to come to grips with the issues.

“We are concerned that underpinning the current financial challenges is an overall organizational structure that may be unable to meet these difficulties,” said Cirillo, a staff associate at the Center.

In one example that surprised the reviewers, no where in the town’s bylaws or special acts in the 162 years since the town was incorporated was the Select Board ever declared as head of the executive branch.

“Belmont is one of the most decentralized town structures” of its size existing in the Commonwealth, said Cirillo, in which varying committees, boards and elected officials deals with certain aspects of the town’s financial landscape but not the whole “in an inherently uncoordinated fashion.”

“Individually, none of these is necessarily unusual or problematic,” reads the report, but put together, “[it] creates a significant diffusion of responsibility and authority across the executive branch” which is unusual for a large town such as Belmont.

The initial reaction from the officials and the public was an acceptance with an acknowledgment that the recommendations must be seriously considered.

“I thought the report was incredibly well done. Very comprehensive and pointed,” said Mark Paolillo, chair of the Select Board. “So I welcome these recommendations. They are fairly robust.”

Seven months and 18 interviews

The review was initiated by Town Administrator Patrice Garvin and the Select Board which received a state grant 18 months ago to look at the town’s financial structure with the Collins Center which has assisted the town previously on developing financial policy and revenue forecasts. The report took seven months to complete with 18 of 19 town officials, employees, appointees and a resident on the Center’s interview list participating in hour-long sessions between November 2021 and February 2022.

While the review spotlighted the structure of town governance, it also pointed out the lack of fiscal “best practices” in its budgetary process. Belmont has been able, so far, to stave off the financial crisis of the structural deficit in the past seven years by using non-recurring funds such as free cash and state and federal and state grants, Cirillo said that approach is simply not sustainable “and you’re rapidly approaching the financial cliff” when one-time revenue will not fill the gap between recurring revenue and expenditures. When that occurs, the only option will require cuts to essential services – education, public safety, public works – or seeking a series of overrides to balance the budget.

While the conditions creating the structural deficit remain, Cirillo presented a list of recommendations that would bring historic change to Belmont’s governmental model and budget process since the town’s founding in 1859. The 19 recommendations [see a copy at the bottom of the page] are not radical in any sense, said Cirillo. In fact, they would bring Belmont in line structurally with nearly all cities and towns in the Commonwealth including comparable towns.

Read the 40-page Financial Organization Structure Review here.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Cirillo pointed to three key recommendations as essential to put Belmont on the path towards. One is to revamp the town’s current annual budget process into a formalized financial planning cycle by adopting guidelines and best practices developed by the state’s Division of Revenues’ Department of Local Services.

Calling the new planning cycle ”very simple,” Cirillo said each player – be it the town administrator, the select board or department head – has a specific timeline to do their specific tasks and move it forward to the next step. ”And each person, each committee has their responsibility to make their decisions themselves, independent of a group meeting,” he said.

Another main recommendation is to define and strengthen the powers and duties of the Select Board and Town Administrator via new bylaws, changes in policy and through special legislation so that “everything should flow through the Select Board and the representative Town Administrator,” said Cirillo.

“We believe that the Town’s executive branch is not configured in a way that aligns authority, responsibility and accountability,” said the report.

The third recommendation is for the Select Board to take the lead in determining what policies will guide the budget process. Cirillo said once the agreed-to revenue expenditure forecast is presented and reviewed, the board would issue policy directives such as how much should be spent on capital projects, set department hiring freezes to forestall layoffs or call for draft budgets that show the effects of reductions to their assigned revenue.

”These budget guidelines would flow to the town administrator who would then send a directive to the department heads, including the school department, at the beginning of the budget process,” said Cirillo.

Once the department budgets are returned at a date certain, the Town Administrator will prepare a budget recommendation back to the Select Board and Warrant Committee both who will meet with the individual departments “which should have the right to advocate for revenue … for the services they deliver,” said Cirillo.

”Ultimately, the Select Board will make their budget recommendation to Town Meeting with the Warrant Committee making their own budget recommendation to Town Meeting,” said Cirillo, noting it’s likely those recommendations will be very close in their final numbers ”because all budgeting is incremental in nature.” If there are differences in opinion, the board and the committee should seek to reconcile their differences. If not, the Warrant Committee can bring its budget to the town’s legislative body and the Select Board can ask for an up or down vote, he said.

New finance director to lead new financial management team

Cirillo was happy to see one of the 19 recommendations has been implemented with the “excellent” hire of Jennifer Hewitt as the town’s assistant town administrator and finance director who will chair a new Financial Management Team. The team will hold regular meetings to “create opportunities to develop new ideas and analyze the impact of upcoming fiscal events … and offer early strategies to deal with anticipated areas of concern.”

Other recommendation calls for the transition of the Town Treasurer position and the Board of Assessors from elected to appointed posts as well as finding other sources of revenue from economic development that will attract an appropriate level of commercial and industrial activity.

The Warrant Committee’s Jack Weis said his concern was the school district makes up 60 percent of the town’s budget and while town and schools have worked collaboratively, “there’s no guarantee that could work and there’s been examples where that didn’t work.” While Cirillo said the school committee does control the school department, it remains a department with the town of Belmont and the Select Board and Warrant Committee are responsible for creating the budget for the town.

“They should be working with the superintendent of school … or make every effort to do so and they succeed more times than not,” said Cirillo, noting that the schools will be part of the budget process every step of the way and they will know the fiscal reality the town is working in.

”The budget is driven by the executive and the executive is the Select Board represented by the town administrator and the warrant committee represents the Town Meeting,” said Cirillo.

Much what the Collins Center is recommending is not new. In fact, many of the suggestions were first proposed in a 2011 financial management review conducted by the state’s Division of Local Services. ”We implemented a handful of recommendations, many which we did not,” said Paolillo. ”When reading the report, I was not surprised to see that a lot of the recommendations from 11 years ago were in this report.”

While Wednesday meeting was the release of the report, a subsequent public meeting on Aug. 29 will be used to plan a path forward, said Paolillo.

”We can’t make changes in a vacuum” it will need consensus of town and elected officials as well as the public ”because some of the recommendations, I would say, are maybe controversial,” said Paolillo.

”It’s not the end of the discussion,” said Paolillo. ”It’s the beginning of our deliberations. This will be an ongoing dialogue … so we need your thoughts and input.”

Change To ‘Final, Final’ Rules Frees Up Covid Funds For Unrestricted Town Use

Photo: The American Rescue Plan signed on March 11, 2021

It’s true: the squeaky wheel did get greased.

A last-minute reversal of state regulations which likely would have forced Belmont to hand back a substantial portion of millions of dollars in federal Covid-19 relief funding will now allow the town to spend the entire $7.6 million as it sees fit.

“As of Thursday afternoon … we were informed that the interim final rule changed yet again. I’m told this is the final, final interim final rule, which puts the town in a great position,” said Patrice Garvin, Belmont Town Administrator who with the town’s state and federal elected representatives.

After a quick word with the town auditor, “we were able to all of our money as revenue loss if we choose and we can use it as unrestricted as we’d like,” Garvin told the Select Board on Monday, Jan 10.

“We were concerned that we had to return [the 7.8 million],” said Adam Dash, select board chair. “This is phenomenal.”

While the grant does nothing to solve the massive structural deficit looming over Belmont, it will allow the town’s planners breathing room for at least the next two budget cycles as the funds will come in two $3.9 million segments with the second available next fall.

In mid-March 2021, Belmont received $8.8 million as part of the Biden Administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan – dubbed the American Rescue Plan Act – with $1 million going off to the schools. But as Belmont was preparing to incorporate the funds to replace revenue lost during the pandemic, it became apparent regulations imposed by the state would placed a stranglehold on the funds.

After a careful reading of the rules and regulations, the town’s auditor – Craig Peacock, a partner with Powers and Sullivan – determined that during the tight 18 month window the state is using to calculate lost revenue, the 2018 voter-approved debt exclusion used to finance the building of Belmont’s new Middle and High School, as well as the state’s partial reimbursement of expenses constructing the building was seen by Beacon Hill as a revenue “gain” for the town.

“As you remember, we had the town auditor come in and report out that … we could not find any revenue loss calculation” under the then final interim regulations, said Garvin on Monday.

While he could not give the town a financial balm, Peacock suggested a more political avenue of relief. “As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease so I don’t think it ever hurts to try to contact” state legislators, said Peacock at the time.

And that’s what Belmont did.

At the urging from the Select Board to air its consternation of the rules, Garvin sent a letter before Christmas “prompted by a lot of the town’s frustration with the final interim rule” to the town’s elected officials – State Sen. Will Brownsberger and State Rep. Dave Rogers – as well to [US Rep.] Katherine Clark, “letting her know that we are we’re in a really tough position with revenue lost calculation given the interim final rule,” said Garvin.

The result was a letter from the entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation to the US Secretary of the Treasury asking to provide relief to Belmont and a number of other small and mid-sized municipalities which found themselves in a similar predicament.

On Thursday, Jan. 6, came the good news from the state that the new change will allow any community to use up to $10 million in ARPA funds to recover revenue lost which has no bearing on each town’s final calculation.

“We will be able to take all of the money that we received from ARPA … and not have any restrictions for it,” said Garvin.

Garvin’s Sticking Around As Reading Goes Another Direction For Town Manager

Photo: Town Administrator Patrice Garvin

Well, the Belmont Select Board dodged that one.

With its decision to select the DPW Commissioner of Chelsea as Town Manager, Reading has spared the three-member board from the excruciating practice of finding a replacement for its highly-effective Town Administrator Patrice Garvin, who was the other finalist for the job.

The Reading board voted unanimously to install Fidel Maltez as only its third-ever town manager. While not as experienced with the ins and outs of running municipal governance as Belmont , the town leaders voted unanimously for “someone who will look out for the community long-term,” said Reading Select Board’s Carlo Bacci.

The Belmont board can thank their Middlesex breadthen to allow the Town of Homes to have Garvin’s steady hand at the fiscal tiller while she constructs the critical annual budget and looking forward three years at the town’s financial condition. She will also attempt to attract a talented assistant since the departure of John Marshall. These are just two important areas that Garvin will have time to pursue as she will be sticking around.

Garvin will begin her fourth year as Town Administrator in January.

Belmont Secures $1.1 Million In State American Rescue Plan Funds For Something Extra

Photo: Monies to help plan for a new library is part of the recently received $1.1 million in state funds.

With thanks to state legislators and town officials, Belmont has received $1.1 million from the state of Massachusetts to fund some of the town’s “extra” expenses that would have been waiting until the next budget cycle.

The source of the funding is from the $5.3 billion the state was allocated from President Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act, the $1.9 trillion funding package to promote recovery from the economic and health effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the related recession. The $1.1 million is coming from a separate pot of funds than the $7.6 million in ARPA monies distributed as part of the bill’s Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.

“This is funding that the town of Belmont has been able to secure thanks to state Rep. Dave Rogers and state Sen. Will Brownsberger,” Town Administrator Patrice Garvin told the Select Board at its first meeting in December. “This is great news for the town.”

Select Board member Mark Paolillo also thanked Garvin as she started the conversation to find state funds to pay for aspects of the skating rink’s planning and design, leading to this larger allocation.

The funding will be spent on several projects in town outside of the budget:

  • $250,000, the new Belmont Public Library
  • $250,000, the new Belmont skating rink
  • $100,000, economic development
  • $500,000 public housing

The public housing portion includes:

  • $250,000, water and sewer infrastructure improvements at Belmont Village
  • $150,000, improvements at Waverley Oaks
  • $100,000, redevelopment of Sherman Gardens

Interim Regs Places A Wet Blanket On Belmont’s Use Of Fed Covid Rescue Funds

Photo: Belmont Middle and High School is now considered the source of revenue generating debt, according to the state.

When the details were released of the Biden Administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan – dubbed the American Rescue Plan Act – signed into law this past March that Belmont would be receiving upwards of $8 million for the town and schools, there was a segment of the population in the Town of Homes that cheered the news, not so much as a fiscal salve to a battered budget but as a political accoutrement.

“We definitely don’t need an override now!” came the clarion call on the No Override Now Facebook page of March 16, as the austerity-based group viewed the community-based bail out as a, albeit, short term solution to the worrying structural deficit facing the town.

The news became a game changer in the override battle, making it easier for many voters sitting on the fence on the proposed $6.4 million override to check the “no” box on the ballot less than a month later.

While town executives and elected officials cautioned at the time it was far too premature to assume the funds were heading into town coffers until there was more clarity of the rules, others were eager to champion – and begin spending – the windfall.

“This money can, in part, be used to offset revenue shortfalls and operating expenses,” proclaimed the No Override Now campaign in ads and opinion articles.

Well, it turns out, maybe not.

Under recently released interim final rules written by the state for allocating ARPA funds by cities and towns, Belmont is facing the prospect of have little to no leeway to use any of the $7.8 million to offset the substantial lost public revenue the town incurred since March 2020.

“What we found was a little troubling … because what we’re showing is no revenue loss based on the state guidelines,” said Town Administrator Patrice Garvin at the Monday, Dec. 6 meeting of the Select Board.

And the reason the state has pulled the ARPA rug from under the town’s feet is located at 221 Concord Ave.

After a careful reading of the rules and regulations, the town’s auditing firm determined that during the tight 18 month window the state is using to calculate lost revenue, the 2018 voter-approved debt exclusion used to finance the building of Belmont’s new Middle and High School, as well as the state’s partial reimbursement of expenses constructing the building is seen by Beacon Hill as a revenue “gain” for the town.

So in the ultimate example of bad timing, while Belmont has shown where revenues had fallen off a cliff, in the eyes of the state which dictates the funding, Belmont was awash in dough during that year-and-a-half reporting period because it borrowed funds to pay for a new school.

As Homer Simpson would put it: “D’uh!”

“We’ve had the issue of a … short-term budget distortion from the high school because it’s such a large number just as Covid hits … seems totally unjust to be counting that as revenue because that’s not what it is,” said Adam Dash, chair of the Select Board.

As the town seeks to have its state and federal legislators attempt a hail Mary to convince the state to reconsider its regulations, the prospect of a revenue shortfall for the upcoming fiscal 2022 budget has become only all too real.

Under the provisions of the ARPA, Belmont’s $7.8 million allocation can be used in one of four ways; pay for Covid-related expenses, make premium payments to essential workers, and invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure. It was the fourth “bucket,” the replacement of “lost public sector revenue” caused by the pandemic, which austerity groups and town officials saw as getting plugged into the budget. Just how much of the town’s share can be used in an unrestricted manner is based on a formula provided by the state’s Division of Local Services.

It was this rule making from the state – dictated in the federal law – is when Garvin said she and other municipalities began “hearing rumblings” as state officials began writing the regulations.

“I had been concerned from the beginning … [that] sometimes the state does like to get involved in defining how the money can be expended,” said Garvin. One such red flag from as far back as the first days of summer was how the rule makers first defined as revenue.

Is a debt exclusion a revenue windfall? The state thinks so

“At that point, I decided it was important to get the auditors involvement” and allow them to do a “deep dive” into the town’s revenue figures in regards to the state regulations, said Garvin.

Craig Peacock, a partner with the town’s auditing firm of Powers and Sullivan, told the board that since the summer what the state has deemed eligible for reimbursement “has been a moving target” resulting in attempting to make calculations “a little confusing.”

What Peacock first had to determine the revenues in fiscal 2019 which the feds was using as the base year and compare it to losses in calendar 2020. While the town did show a decrease in its general funds of $1.6 million, there were two unexpected line items which offset that lost revenue.

One is the on-going cost reimbursements building the new school from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which is paying nearly $85 million of the $295 million project, a significant amount – $24 million – being received in calendar 2020. Even with the MSBA reimbursement figure removed, said Peacock, the state also views the $213 million debt exclusion the town is using to pay for its portion of the building’s cost as yet another source of revenue, with Belmont “collecting” an additional $11.7 million in calendar 2020. Without these items, Peacock said the town by the state’s reckoning did suffer a revenue shortfall during the 18 months.

The end result is while Belmont can use the funds for the three of the four buckets, ARPA funds will not be going into the one ARPA bucket the town most needs to fill. While the town will have $7.6 million to spend – in two $3.8 million segments with the second available next fall – “it has made it much more difficult for us to use it,” said Garvin.

The news didn’t go down well as Select Board Vice Chair Roy Epstein calling the state’s rules an accounting exercise that “frankly makes no sense to me,” pointing out that the reason the town undertook the debt exclusion was to pay for a school which can hardly be seen as a revenue windfall for Belmont.

“I think the treatment of a debt exclusion that are earmarked for particular capital projects to just really seems nonsensical,” said Epstein as Dash questioned whether the federal government understands the New England-concept of debt exclusion which could have been exempted in the ARPA law.

The Select Board’s Mark Paolillo asked Peacock who in state government can the town question how they rationalize school debt and reimbursement of expenses as “revenue.” The answer was less than encouraging.

“We are not aware of any caveat in the interim final rules that would allow us to remove the debt exclusion and we are not aware of any agency that would be willing to review and discuss that because currently it is in the rules”, said Peacock.

As it currently stands, without the ability to replenish the lost public revenue and if there are no big ticket infrastructure projects ready to go into the ground, Peacock said there is a chance Belmont will return a portion of the ARPA funds back to the US Treasury.

If there is a glimmer of hope, the guidance is being written by the state and there are several communities feeling the same pinch by the state’s rules writers, said Peacock.

“As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease so I don’t think it ever hurts to try to contact” state legislators, advised Peacock. “I do know other communities that are contacting their state reps who have very similar attributes” that are preventing them from reporting revenue losses and are “trying to change the rules before the final rules become final.”

Garvin One Of Three Finalist For Reading Town Manager Post, Possible Vote On Dec. 7

Photo: Patrice Garvin, Belmont Town Manager

Belmont Town Administrator Patrice Garvin is one of three finalists in the running to replace Reading Town Manager Robert LeLacheur who is resigning effective at the end of Feb. 25, 2022, according to reporting in the Reading Post.

Reading Select Board member Anne Landry who spoke at the board’s Nov. 23 meeting said the Select Board could hold a vote on the new town manager as early as Tuesday, Dec. 7, after Garvin and the other two candidates are interviewed by the board.

While she could not reveal the names of the finalists, Landry said the “pleased with the pool” of candidates.

Garvin is scheduled to go before the board at 5 p.m.

The interviews will be carried on Reading Community Television and via Zoom:
https://us06web.zoom.us/j/86081759921
Meeting ID: 860 8175 9921

Garvin has held the town administrator’s position since January 2018 after serving as Shirley’s Town Administrator. Since holding the post, Garvin has been receiving top job performance reviews from the Select Board as she steered the town through the Covid pandemic and the budgetary difficulties.

LeLacheur is only the second town manager in Reading’s history having served in that position since 2013, previously serving the town as assistant Town Manager. 

The other candidates are Fidel Maltez, Chelsea’s Department of Public Work commissioner since 2019, and Jennifer Phillips, the former city manager of Bothell, Washington and city manager in Helena, California.

Belmont Is A Mess! Select Board Targets Growing Trash Complaints On Street, In Parks

Photo: Just another overflowing receptacle in Belmont

When Mark Paolillo decided not to run for re-election to the then Board of Selectmen in 2019, it was mentioned at the time that board meetings would miss his memorable discharges of distain for people who left garbage, trash and, yes, dog poop on the town’s streets and parks.

“This is outrageous, simply outrageous. This can’t happen,” he cried when viewing the aftermath – beer cans, food containers, plastic bags – of an adult softball game in 2016.

So with Paolillo winning a return to the board earlier this year, it was only a matter of time before the public would hear his clarion call:

”Leonard Street is a mess!” Paolillo said at the Monday, Sept 20 board meeting, barely containing his disgust of anyone knowingly throwing trash in overflowing barrels at parks and in the business centers.

But Paolillo’s anger is not attention seeking but well warranted as anyone who travels through Belmont Center, by eateries around town or in any park or playground can testify, trash is a real problem throughout the Town of Homes. Containers outside the town’s favorite take-out places are overwhelmed while barrels in parks are swamped with all manner of garbage and waste.

“The trash levels that we’re seeing now are pretty substantial,” Jay Marcotte, Department of Public Works director, told the board.

Topped out trash cans and garbage left on the ground is not a new problem. Over the years particular locations such as the aforementioned softball diamond off Concord Avenue, Belmont Center or at Joey’s Park at the Winn Brook School which has become an impromptu site for children’s parties, are in need of collection specifically during the weekend.

The trash cascade begins on Friday evening and continues all day Saturday as residents and visitors come for grab a bite to eat or to attend kids events at parks. And the trash doesn’t stay where its bought or brought. A study from a newly formed local environmental group, Clean Green Belmont, discovered the majority of waste at Clay Pit Pond comes from Belmont Center eateries.

And the jump in trash is more than just a litter or esthetic issue. All that out-in-the-open garbage quickly turns into a public health problem as improperly discarded food contributes to the introduction of rats and other rodents.

So how did the town get in such as predicament? According to Marcotte, much of the increase in waste began in 2019 when the town eliminated overtime for the DPW’s Saturday pickup schedule in a cost savings move. And despite the town’s hauler, Waste Management, emptying town reciprocals three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, it does not keep up with the volume for waste produced over the weekend.

Two years ago, the DPW issued a Carry in-Carry out policy that is successful at National Parks but didn’t work in Belmont other than making many residents angry that waste barrels were removed.

In addition, the town had “a very detailed discussion about trash” with Leonard Street businesses when the street became a one way to promote dining and shopping in the Center which led to an agreement that retailers and eateries would install their own trash receptacles which they would have removed.

”I think what we are starting to see is that’s not happening,” said Town Administrator Patrice Garvin.

Vice Chair Roy Epstein said it would be a reasonable takeaway to say that self policing by residents on controlling trash “is not working.”

“This is an example of a public good where the way to make sure it gets done is to have the DPW do it and not rely on somebody’s good intentions,” said Epstein.

Marcotte agreed, saying the return of a DPW weekend collect “is a venture we should look into it and start implementing sooner than later.” Garvin pegged the overtime price tag at $10,000 for two workers from April 1 until the first snow fall in late autumn/early winter.

The board agreed the dollars spent in reinstating the DPW pickup “are insignificant considering the benefit it will have to the community,” said Paolillo.

Garvin will “use her usual resourcefulness” to find the money, said Epstein, either by tapping into town resources or rearranging DPW schedules to allow for personnel to work on Saturday. A plan coming from Garvin will be presented to the board at its next meeting.

Select Board Gives Garvin Top Marks In Annual Review, Acknowledging Growing Public Criticism Of Government

Photo: Belmont Town Administrator Patrice Garvin.

In a time of financial constraint and pandemic, Belmont Town Administrator Patrice Garvin received top marks from the Select Board during her annual review held at the board’s Sept. 13 meeting.

“One of the reasons I voted to hire Patrice was to get us to do things better and differently and not just continue the status quo and be a bean counter but to be a visionary and a leader,” said Adam Dash, Select Board chair. And while she has received her share of criticism – particularity in online forums – “it is a lot easier to just go with the flow than it is to change things. I think [Garvin] has changed things a lot since she’s been here and I think we’re better for it.”

“We live in an era of increasing suspicion of government, even in small town like Belmont, so helping to allay these fears has become an important requirement of the town administrator,” said Vice Chair Roy Epstein.

After the review, the Select Board awarded Garvin a 1.5 percent increase to her annual salary effective July 1 bumping it up to $193,400.

Garvin’s performance review consisted of a self evaluation and a number-based performance evaluation on all aspects of her role as the town’s chief administrative officer, according the Human Resources Director Shawna Healey.

Healey said Garvin’s overall rating was a 4.18 on a scale of one to five. The members also provided written reviews and areas of improvement in the coming year.

The public portion of the review including the scores and board’s written review can be found at the bottom of the article.

In his public comments Monday, Dash said that Garvin “is the best town administrator I’ve worked for in Belmont.”

“The times are tough, but she’s unflappable and is always focused on doing what is best for the town. We are lucky to have her recognized strengths include resiliency creativity, adaptivity financial acumen with a ‘can do’ attitude,” said Dash.

Epstein said that Garvin is an “outstanding” town administrator who manages an enormous number and variety of responsibilities for what she brings a wealth of experience, great intelligence and tremendous work ethic.

“[Garvin] in direct manner and working with the Select Board ability to attend to multiple pressing issues simultaneously proved success, proven success and winning outside grants, she did a spectacular job managing our COVID response, both operationally and financially.”

“There can be a torrent of criticism of the town administrator [as] changing an organization and institutional practices is an is inevitably controversial – nonetheless, it is her burden to deal with – and to find a positive resolution, Patricia is maturing in this area. It’s a difficult two way street, as she acknowledges in her self evaluation.”

Board Member Mark Paolillo reiterated his colleagues praise for Garvin’s strong work ethic as she is motivated to achieve good results while also acknowledging her strong support of all department heads and those who report to her who she “treats … with dignity and respect.”

Garvin “needs to improve her performance and public relations and communications to community leadership,” said Paolillo, as “there is a high level presently of mistrust amongst our town residents towards town administration and town and government to fiscal management.” That would include a need to develop a clear and timely understanding of budgets including overages and turn backs.

Garvin responded by thanking the board, the town’s department heads, Schools Superintendent John Phelan and everyone who works with her daily.

“It is my honor and privilege to work for the town of Belmont. I work very hard to come in every day with the attitude to improve the town in any way I can,” said Garvin.

Saying she welcomes the feedback both positive and negative as an opportunity to improve her work. ”I am someone who definitely always wanting to do better,” Garvin said.

Gavin also addressed the issue of growing public distrust of local government. “I think that it is very much on my mind, the mistrust that is in the community. Unfortunately, I do not think it’s indicative to Belmont. I talk to a lot of managers and administrators in Massachusetts, and we’re all struggling with similar issues and trying to convey to the public that trust, and to alleviate that suspicion that that I think is out there.”

“I will definitely work harder to make sure that the residents of the town can trust the board, the administration as it has been a challenge,” said Garvin. “The last year and a half has been very challenging to do the job itself and then to add a pandemic to it, it really does test the limits of patience, it tests your limits of staying positive and and trying to take that criticism and rise above it,” she said.

Garvin pointed to the relationships she made with the residents who volunteer on boards and committees “who come with pure selflessness to improve their town” and who she calls her “partners in crime” to improve the day-to-day lives of the citizens of Belmont, “which I know I come to work every day, aspiring to do.”

Breaking: Belmont Town Hall, Offices Set To Open Tuesday, June 1

Photo: Belmont Town Hall is ready to open on June 1

The return of normalcy after 15 months of COVID restrictions continues as Belmont Town Hall and offices will be open for business on Tuesday, June 1. The opening comes as the Massachusetts intends to lift its COVID-19 restrictions, though masks will still be required in schools, at transportation hubs, and at health care facilities.

Town Administrator Patrice Garvin made the announcement during the Belmont Board of Health’s Monday, May 24 meeting. While the town offices will be open to the public, anyone who is unvaccinated will be required to wear a mask.

The one exception to the openings will be the Beech Street Center, due to the large number of older residents who congregate in the building. A set date for its opening will be announced in the future.

Garvin called in to recognize the Board of Health and all in the Health Department for its work during “this crazy year.” “You were so vital with your guidance and thoughtful response to residents and staff,” said Garvin.

“When I look back years from now about this time, that’s what I’ll remember first,” said Garvin.

Public Meeting On Federal COVID Funds And State Aid Set For Wednesday, March 31

Photo: Poster to the meeting

The $8.6 million Belmont will receive from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan has been the topic of a heated debate ever since it was signed into law by President Biden on March 11.

In one corner are those who are attempting to defeat a $6.2 million Proposition 2 1/2 override who see the money filling town coffers with more than enough funds to render the override moot.

On the other side, proponents of the override contend that most of the cash is restricted to reimbursing town revenue lost due to COVID-19 and can’t be used to as a one-time stop gap for the town’s structural deficit.

And in the past three weeks, “I am seeing some things that are being misreported in regards to those numbers,” Town Administrator Patrice Garvin told the Select Board Monday, March 29.

In an attempt to provide a clearer picture of the funds and how they can be used for, the Financial Task Force II and Warrant Committee are inviting the public to a virtual presentation to share the latest information regarding the new Federal Aid Bill and also provide an update on projected state aid in the coming fiscal year 2022.

When: Wednesday, March 31
Time: 7 p.m.
Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87434286149

Questions will be taken at the conclusion of the presentation period
through the Q&A function. The meeting facilitator will inform those
attending when questions can be submitted.