The prime responsibility of the Committee is to make recommendations on all financial matters, including the budget, to Town Meeting. The Committee has oversight responsibility for all municipal financial issues, as well as other statutory authority granted to them by Town Bylaws.
In Dalton, the Committee consists of nine elected members, each for a term of three years (three elected each year over three years). Current members are in the Elected Officers list maintained by Town Clerk’s office. The Committee has a Chairman and a Vice Chairman elected by members of the Committee at the first meeting after the annual town election. The Committee is divided into three Subcommittees as follows: General Government, Highway/Safety, and Contract/Education/Planning. These Subcommittees make recommendations to the full Finance Committee on financial issues from each respective area.
The Committee also has responsibility for making transfers from the Reserve Fund. The Reserve Fund is money appropriated each year by Town Meeting to cover extraordinary and unforeseen expenses that arise during the year.
Meetings occur primarily during the”budget season” which is February and March when they average one per week. During the rest of the year meetings are held on an as needed basis, but always prior to any Special Town Meetings. All meetings comply with the Open Meeting law, which means they are posted in advance and are open to any member of the public. Minutes are taken by a recording secretary and are on file at the Town Clerk’s office.
The Annual Budget Process
The budget process takes place throughout the year. It begins in early fall with the development of the Select Board’s policy guidelines to the Town Manager. The Town Manager and Select Board confer with department heads, boards and committees to develop specific budget proposals which they feel will best meet the needs of the Town for the next fiscal year. The Central Berkshire Regional School District uses the same procedure.
In early January, the Town Manager presents preliminary revenue projections to the Select Board and the Finance Committee. This provides preliminary guidance on the level of resources that may be available for the coming year. This is important since with the enactment of Proposition 2-1/2 the budget process is revenue driven.
In late January, the budgets are presented to the Finance Committee, whose members spend the next month and a half reviewing the budgets, asking questions, and hearing comments. After much deliberation, the Finance Committee determines its recommendations on the budget to be presented to Annual Town Meeting in May. This includes advice on whether to accept or reject the assessment request of the school district. The budget, as voted by Town Meeting each spring, then becomes the plan of action for the following fiscal year (July 1 through June 30). Concurrently with this work, and also immediately after the close of the fiscal year, the budget of the present year is monitored and evaluated so that experience with it can guide future budget decisions.