Town Administrator Nixes Own Pay Raise As Town Faces Big Budget Shortfall

Photo: Patrice Garvin, Belmont Town Administrator

In a move that took many by surprise, the Select Board approved Town Administrator Patrice Garvin’s request that she not be paid her expected annual salary increase.

The amendment to Garvin’s contract is “in response to the significant budgetary shortfalls as a result of the unanticipated COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the press release from the town.

Garvin’s gesture comes two-weeks before the Belmont Town Meeting where members will be presented the fiscal 2021 budget that reflects a 25 percent reduction in state aid. In addition, the town’s Financial Task Force’s initial projections of the fiscal ’22 budget has the town suffering a one-year structural deficit of between $10 to $13 million.

Garvin was expected to receive on July 1 a two percent increase over her base salary of $189,300 or the general pay hike for department heads, which ever was higher.

Garvin’s action won praise from the Board.

“I’d just like to note that this is what leadership looks like. In coming from the town administrator, it makes a very large statement,” said Select Board’s Adam Dash.

With a significant financial challenge waiting in fiscal 2022, Garvin “recognizes she can’t ask employees of the town to do anything that she isn’t willing to do herself,” said member Tom Caputo.

Selectmen OK Pay, Merit Hike for Town Administrator

Photo: Patrice Garvin, Belmont’s town administrator

After receiving a positive job evaluation two weeks ago, the Belmont Board of Selectmen at its April 22 meeting increased Belmont’s Town Administrator Patrice Garvin’s paycheck so she’s a bit closer to what her peers in town government are taking home.

In addition to salary and merit raises for Garvin, the town administrator presented a list of goals for this coming fiscal year, according to the town’s Human Resources Director Jessica Porter

The selectmen provided Garvin, who began her tenure in Belmont in January 2018, a two percent cost of living increase and two percent merit payment retroactive to July 1, 2018 (the first day of the fiscal year 2019) and an identical pay and merit package hike effective this July 1.

In addition, the board increased the town administrator’s vehicle allowance from $2,400 to $7,500 as of July 1 to assist her daily commute from her Chelmsford home.

Garvin’s total compensation package on July 1 will be approximately $189,300. Her starting compensation was $170,400.

The final package still leaves Garvin behind the average compensation of $206,450 for town administrators and city managers of 14 comparable nearby municipalities, according to an analysis by Porter.

Garvin presented the board with her goals and their subsequent objectives for the coming year. They include providing financial leadership, improving the overall effectiveness and efficiency of town government and promoting economic development.

The complete list of goals and objectives are below:

GOAL 1:  Finance/Budget

The Town Administrator shall work closely with the Selectmen, Warrant Committee, Capital Budget Committee, Town Treasurer and Town Accountant in providing financial leadership, to provide a balanced budget to Town Meeting.

Objectives:

  1. Work with the Superintendent to develop two operating budgets for FY21. One with an override and one without.
  2. Continue to work with Finance Team to develop five year budget forecasts.
  3. Work with the Financial Task Force II to assist them in providing the Board of Selectmen Financial recommendation.
  4. Seek out grants and other funding sources that will take pressure off of the operating budget.

GOAL 2:  Operations/Service Delivery

The Town Administrator shall strive to establish a positive working environment with employees, to ensure the best delivery of services to the residents of Belmont. 

Objectives:

  1. Continue to inform and educate staff through department head meetings, and through moral building exercises.
  2. Continue to conduct reviews for all non-union employees.
  3. Support the HR Director in negotiating successor agreements with collective bargaining units.
  4. Work with the departments to ensure that the most productive, cost efficient services are being provided to the residents.
  5. Assist with shepherding major building projects to completion (i.e., Belmont High School Project, DPW Building, Police Station, etc.).

GOAL 3:  Open and Transparent Government

The Town Administrator shall keep the selectmen and citizens informed of governmental activities and strive to improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency of Town government.

Objectives:

  1. Maintain that all materials are made public on the town website; better utilize other digital resources; keep all other web content current.
  2. Ensure that all selectmen minutes are up to date and approved in a timely manner.
  3. Establish a way to continue to use social media to disseminate information.

GOAL 4:  Economic Development

The Town Administrator shall work to promote economic development.

Objectives:

  1. Work with the Business Study Group to provide the final deliverable of their charge.
  2. If an Economic Development Committee is formed work with that committee and the Business Study Group to foster ways to improve on what has been identified.
  3. Continue to work and build relationships with the business community.

GOAL 5: Public Communication

The Town Administrator shall be an active participant in the Belmont Community.

Objectives:

  1. Attend community events as time allows.
  2. Continue working with committees/boards and elected officials to advance projects in town.
  3. Continue to work with Belmont Media.
  4. Continue to be open to all residents’ concerns and connect them to the town departments that will assist.

GOAL 6: Personal and Professional Growth

The Town Administrator shall pursue professional development opportunities. 

Objective:

  1. Attend professional meetings, seminars and conferences including the ICMA, MMA annual conference and regional meetings. 
  2. Apply to become a candidate under the ICMA Certified Managers program.
  3. Continue to reach out to neighboring communities and to identify areas of possible regional efforts.

Lickety Split: New Town Administrator Secures $30K In State Funding In Her First Week

Photo: (from left) Patrice Garvin, Mark Paolillo, Jim Williams, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, State Rep. Dave Rogers, Adam Dash.

The Board of Selectmen’s Room at Belmont Town Hall was packed Tuesday, Jan. 30 with town and public safety officials, staff and residents for the dual purposes of greeting the state’s Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, and to recognize the town being the 327th grant recipient to join the state in supporting “best practices.” 

Polito and Board of Selectmen Chair Jim Williams signed the Community Compact agreement, a voluntary, mutual agreement in which cities and towns choose to implement method or techniques that reflect needed areas of improvement which the Commonwealth helps accomplish by providing grants, resources, and incentives. 

Belmont will use a total of $30,000 in grants to develop a set of formal financial policies and practices and create a long-range financial forecasting model which could be used to review pensions and other retirement obligations.

“It’s a hallmark of the cooperation between state and local government that is so important,” said State Rep. Dave Rogers of the state program that dates back to January 2015.

But the state funds would likely have stayed on Beacon Hill if Belmont Town Administrator Patrice Garvin’s had not made a quick decision to apply for funds from a program she had used in her previous position.

“You should talk to the real hero,” Williams said pointing to Garvin.

Less than two weeks on the job, Garvin was able to secure the $30,000 by using her own initiative and past experience with the state program. 

Being a member of the compact “benefits you on every grant you apply for,” said Garvin.

When she was being interviewed for the Belmont position, Garvin told the selectmen and staff she would seek to increase outside sources of funding as to diversify the town’s revenue stream, critical in a town that relies heavily on residential real estate taxes.

Garvin got her chance to mobilize Belmont to procure state grants soon after arriving on the job on Jan. 16 when she discovered while the Selectmen approved joining the pact with the state, it hadn’t moved forward with the implementation

“When I came in, someone casually said the board had just agreed to join.”

“For me, it’s just a no-brainer. Even though the board hadn’t yet begun the application process, I decided to do so,” said Garvin. “I went online [to the compact’s website] that day to apply and the next day we had a day that the Lt. Governor was coming. It was really quick,” said Garvin. 

Garvin said in her experience, municipalities need to be active in seeking intergovernmental or private funding sources. 

“It’s a piece of the toolbox that you need to get more money in the future,” she said.

Historic: Garvin Sworn In As Belmont’s First Female Town Administrator

Photo: Patrice Garvin being sworn in by Town Clerk Ellen Cushman as Belmont first female town administrator.

Town Clerk Ellen Cushman was ready with the official signing in book, two of the three selectmen were in place and the Board of Selectmen’s table was festooned with sweets and pastries.

And a few minutes after 8 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 16, history was made as Patrice Garvin was sworn in as Belmont’s first permanent female town administrator.

“I’m very excited and I’m looking forward to working with everybody in the town of Belmont. Looking to get going,” said Garvin who received a round of applause after Cushman made her appointment official. The swearing in was Garvin’s second public event in Belmont as she attended the annual Martin Luther King Community Breakfast on Monday, Jan. 15 where she was introduced to many residents. Garvin was offered the job in December after a long search process to find a replacement for David Kale, who returned to Cambridge after four years in Belmont.

Garvin has a three-year contract running through Jan. 15, 2021 with options to extend her employment. Garvin will receive an annual salary of $168,000.

Garvin said that she hoped her first day would not “be too overwhelming” and was looking forward to meeting more of the staff “and have more conversations and dive right in.” She believed her main goal in the next few months – during which the town budget takes center stage – is to meet and discuss with each department head their budgets in detail “and those are the conversations I want to have.” 

As with any out-of-town commuter, the Chelmsford resident found the town’s congested roads and business centers “challenging but indicative of this area.” Before he left, Williams provided Garvin with the location of the “secret” parking space only known to certain selectmen and now her. 

Every little bit of advice helps when you’re new in town.

Selectmen Offers Shirley’s Town Administrator Belmont Position; Contract Possibly Monday

Photo: Patrice Garvin

The Belmont Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to offer Shirley Town Administrator Patrice Garvin the vacant Belmont Town Administrator position after a public interview of the final pair of candidates on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at Town Hall.

The Selectmen anticipate approving a final contract with Garvin on Monday, Dec. 11 at its next meeting. There are reports that Garvin – who was a finalist to become town administrator in three other communities this year – is likely to have competing offers from other municipalities, which was one of the reasons the selectmen moved up by a week its vote to decide on which candidate to select. 

A resident of Chelmsford, Garvin has been Shirley’s Town Administrator for the past four years, having been the executive assistant to the town manager in Groton previously. Garvin also has experience in town government as the chair and member of Chelmsford’s Finance Committee. She had her bachelors degree from Suffolk University and earned her masters in education and developmental and educational psychology from Boston College.

Also interviewed Tuesday was Kevin Sweet, Maynard’s town administrator, who along with Garvin was the last of 19 prospective candidates seen by a screening committee headed by School Committee member Kate Bowen. Both were described by Rick White of the search firm Groux-White Consulting as “represent[ing] the younger and rising stars in the profession.” 

While the selectmen each said that both candidates would be outstanding administrators, the majority opinion was that Garvin demonstrated a grasp of the position more significant than just process and numbers. 

“[Patrice] Garvin articulated a vision which I think is important,” said Selectman Adam Dash. “[She] came across to me as practical, foreright, persistent and those are qualities we need to go forward.”

“It wasn’t just a list of accomplishments; it was a statement of purpose and motivation as well as a quiet forcefulness that we can use,” said Dash. 

Mark Paolillo, the senior selectman on the board, was impressed with Garvin’s detailed and insightful knowledge when answering financial questions, “because we are facing great financial challenges in the future.” Of the two candidates, Paolillo felt Garvin would be more successful in “finding ways to bring people together and unify the community” and “work collaboratively with departments and the school committee.”

“It was some of her nuisance responses … like growing in the position in Shirley, that tipped the scales for me,” said Paolillo.

“She did really really well [on difficult questions], the answers were really honest and didn’t sound canned. I feel like I know what we are getting if we hire her because of that,” said Dash.

While saying he was less sure about making a selection, Chair Jim Williams said he was not looking for a “fourth selectmen” but rather someone who will follow the direction of the board. While both were very capable of doing the job, “I don’t have a strong preference.” Williams ultimately voted to join his colleagues to make the decision unanimous. 

With a low-key manner and a distinct Boston-regional accent, Garvin told the board “I always want to find a career where I would make peoples lives better,” and working in local government is where she “could see my efforts and my work in a very short period.” 

She told the board as an administrator for the past four years in Shirley, she looks for common ground and finds some resolution to problems that come through her door.

Garvin said her practical experience she gained being in Shirley for the past four years was “well-rounded” from building up the town’s reserves, restructured town offices, and obtained millions in state and federal grants and funding. She described her part in revamping the Shirley Fire ambulance response from relying on mutual aid to staffing the department with EMTs and on the weekend which resulted in a positive revenue and reducing response times.

She noted that the most significant challenge in the job “is gaining the trust and respect of the board you’re working for.”

She also told board she has “three rules” when it comes to working with the selectmen: “You’re always informed. You’re never surprised. And one [selectmen] won’t know something the other two do.”

When asked what qualities she will bring to Belmont if hired, Garvin said after ten years in government, she continues to “push to know more.” 

“What drives me is my failures as much as my success. I want to learn more and do better,” said “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying. And what I bring to everything I do is my full effort. If I don’t succeed with one thing, I’ll try another. I won’t give up until it’s done.”