Not If, But When: Select Board Ponders Best Date For Town Meeting Vote On Appointed Treasurer

Photo: The Belmont Select Board

Mark Paolillo, chair of the Belmont Select Board, summed up the prevailing feeling of appointing all future town treasurers at the end of the public forum on Oct. 27.

“It’s not if, but when,” Paolillo said, proclaiming the board’s support of what they have called ”the most important” of the 19 inter-related recommendations on revamping the town’s governmental structure by the Collins Center.

The treasurer’s post is currently held by Floyd Carman who is up for re-election in the coming town election in April 2023. Carman is yet to make an official decision on running for another three-year term, some town and elected officials have said publically that he would not seek another term.

The board will decide at its Nov. 7 meeting the date it will bring the appointed treasurer article before Town Meeting. The earliest would be Nov. 29 during the first night of the Special Town Meeting.

The board has previously supported moving forward toward implementing many of the recommendations, including some that have already been acted upon, such as changes to the budget process and the creation of a Financial Committee.

Presented to the board in June and at the Special Town Meeting in November, the Collins Center report bluntly stated Belmont was one of the most, if not the most, decentralized governments in the Commonwealth with a bevy of independent boards and positions. This structure had a negative impact on how the town managed its finances.

The Select Board and others, from Warrant Committee to interested residents, believed transforming the town’s treasurer from an elected to an appointed post was essential as its role in managing many of the town’s significant financial transactions: issuing bills, managing taxpayers accounts, cash and debt management, investments and running the department.

Moving from an elected to the appointed position is spelled out in Massachusetts General Laws: First, Town Meeting must vote to approve the change at least 60 days before the town’s annual election in April. Second, the measure must pass at the annual election. If someone runs for the three-year post, which is up for election in 2023, the incumbent will serve until a permanent appointment is made.

The new non-elected treasurer will be appointed by the Town Administrator.

The board is wrestling with the question of when to present an amendment before the Town Meeting. For those seeking a quick resolution to the question – such as board vice chair Adam Dash and Warrant Committee Chair Geoffrey Lubien – the change isn’t rocket science, so there is no reason for a delay.

“We should put it on the warrant, and if it fails, it fails. Because if we don’t put it on the warrant, we start kicking this down the road as we did for 11 years,” said Ann Helgen of the Warrant Committee, referring to a 2011 Department of Revenue report that advised the town to appoint the treasurer.

Chair Paolillo and others such as Jack Weiss believe not just Town Meeting but town voters need to ”buy in” on the change, which can best be accomplished with other forums and discussions on the issues, building support through educating the public on the Collins Center report. Bill Andersen suggested that more report recommendations be implemented concurrently with the Treasurer’s position to gain momentum in passing the needed changes.

Some residents continue to push for an elected belief that someone resides in the “Town of Homes” with the expertise and drive to step into Carman’s shoes without much problem.

”I wanted it to remain independent and a Belmont resident,” said Judith Sarno. ”I think our track record shows Belmont residents elect qualified candidates,” pointing to the first-time elected Light Board.

But that belief runs counter not just to the Collins Center’s recommendation but also to best practices that nearly eight of ten communities in the Commonwealth – from ”teenie weenie” 500-person villages to the largest cities – appoint their financial chief.

“This is not about Floyd; it’s not about any one person. It’s about coming into the 21st century,” said Helgen.

While the bulk of the public forum focused on the pros and cons of an appointed treasurer, politics did come into play by some residents. Saying she wanted to call out the ”elephant in the room,” Judith Feinleib said she would oppose an appointed treasurer since the post would be filled by the current town administrator, Patrice Garvin. While she’s willing to accept a designated candidate, ”I want at least the treasurer to report to an elected body.”

Saying she wanted to provide greater nuance to Feinleib’s comments, Warrant Committee Secretary Elizabeth Dionne said a lot of the opposition to the appointed town treasurer is particular to Garvin.

“A number of us have seen egregious and dishonest and abusive emails circulating around her … that very explicitly states opposition to the elected treasurer in connection with her position, that this was a power grab and an effort on her behalf.”

In a bit of fun, Dash said a solution would be to place an appointed treasurer article on every town meeting warrant “until the members had enough and gave up.”

Elected Or Appointed: Hybrid Public Forum On The Future Of Town Treasurer, Thursday Oct. 27

Photo: The poster for the hybrid public forum this Thursday.

The Belmont Select Board will be holding a public forum on Thursday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. to discuss an article that will be voted on at the Special Town Meeting – running from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 – concerning the proposal to have future Town Treasurers be appointed rather than elected.

The article comes from a recommendation of the Collins Center in its report on the government structure of Belmont.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the meeting in-person at Belmont Town Hall, 455 Concord Ave., in the Select Board Conference Room or participate remotely on Zoom. Belmont Media Center will be broadcasting and live-streaming the event. 

To view the meeting agenda and Zoom information please click here or visit the Select Board page of the Town website.  

Officially On The Hook: Selectmen Approve Bonding For New 7-12 School

Photo: The latest from Perkins + Will architects, facing Clay Pit Pond.

There was the debate, the vote by residents, the approval of Town Meeting. And on Monday, Jan. 7, the Belmont Board of Selectmen made it official in a five-minute signing: the town’s taxpayers are now on the hook to pay for the new 7-12 school building set to open five years down the road.

And the final dollar amount that’s on Belmont’s bill was calculated by Town Accountant Floyd Carman at (drum roll, please) $212,764,911. 

That number is the difference of the total project cost set by the architect Perkins + Will and general contractor Skanska at $295,159,189, subtracting $1,750,000 approved by Town Meeting last year for preliminary design and $80,644,278 in a state grant approved by the town’s partner, the Massachusetts School Building Authority, on Aug. 29, 2018. 

If for whatever reason, the project expenses overrun the projected cost, the selectmen will be required to seek the additional funds from Town Meeting, a prospect Carman believes would not be an enjoyable one. 

Carman told the selectmen the town is set to make its first borrowing of $100 million in March which taxpayers will see in February 2020. The second borrowing for $85 million will take place in March 2021 with its impact felt in February 2021. The final short-term borrowing of $27 million will be in March 2021. The borrowing will hike taxes on a $1 million home by $1,800 in February 2022.

Town Election ’17: Carman Seeking Re-Election as Treasurer

Photo: Floyd Carman.

Belmont Town Teasurer and long-time resident Floyd Carman told the Belmontonian this week he will be running to retain his post as the town’s manager of its financial assets and liabilities and tax collector.

Now in his 12th year in the post, Carman is known for his ahearance to conservative financial principles which he says is one reason the town has maintained the gold standard Triple A rating from Moody’s, the bond credit rating firm, for most of a decade. 

Carman was first elected treasurer in 2005, winning a close race over Danelia Boccia. He has run unopposed since.

Born in Cambridge, Carman spent four decades with John Hancock, reaching the position of vice president before retiring in August 2005. The Brighton Street resident matriculated at Bentley College and received his MBA in Finance from Western New England College.

Belmont Takes Advantage of Low Rates to Bond $29 Million

While the low-interest rate environment promoted by the Federal Reserve over the past five years has dampened residents appetite for bonds, the same condition has been a boom for municipalities with good credit ratings when selling their debt on the open market.

Using its top-ranked “triple A” credit rating, Belmont’s Treasurer and Tax Collector Floyd Carman was able to receive eight bids for nearly $29 million in municipal bonds that will include financing construction and upgrades to the Belmont Light substation that will be located on Flanders Road.

The winning bid for Belmont’s bonds came from Morgan Stanley offering an average interest rate of 2.951 percent, Carman told the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, April 22.

“That is a good deal for the town,” said Carman, noting the low rates will result in a significant savings to taxpayers which will be felt on Belmont’s fiscal bottom line.

The bond will pay for:

• $26,100,000: Belmont Light substation construction.

• $482,000: Water main replacement.

• $30,000: A school department vehicle.

• $890,000: a ladder truck for the Fire Department.

• $500,000: a new fire engine.

• 960,000: Harris Field replacement.