Our Four-Year Strategic Financial Goals: What We Have Accomplished Together 2014 – 2017
A Message from Robert Halpin, Town Manager
Framingham, MA – Earlier this week the Board of Selectmen held the annual Tax Classification Hearing, a necessary requirement to establishing the official tax rate for the current fiscal year. At the conclusion of the hearing the Selectmen officially set the tax rate for FY 2018 at $16.32 for residential properties and $35.39 for commercial and industrial properties.
This is the last tax rate setting process in which I will participate as Town Manager here in Framingham. There is much change underway in Framingham at the moment, as the Town makes a historic transition to its new city form of government. After their vote on the tax rate, I asked the Selectmen for a moment to reflect on what we have accomplished over the past four (4) fiscal years in managing taxes and creating reserves that immensely strengthen our local government in Framingham as it enters its next phase.
This story begins in 2013 when the Board of Selectmen voted to support a proposal to move the Town’s municipal employee and retiree health insurance plan into the state government’s group health insurance program (the GIC) serving a group of more than 250,000 state and municipal employees. This was a major cost reduction opportunity created by the cooperative efforts of the Town Manager, Town Counsel, the Chief Financial Officer and the Director of Human Resources and ultimately the acceptance of public employee unions, employees and retirees. At the time of the decision to make the move it was projected that it would save the Town government $17,000,000 dollars over the ensuing three (3) years. In the final result it actually saved the Town $24,500,000 during those three (3) years.
The next chapter in the story included direction from the Board of Selectman that the Town administrators consider some mechanism whereby some substantial portion of these projected savings could be shared directly with Framingham taxpayers. In response, the Town Manager and Chief Financial Officer crafted a set of strategic financial goals and a three-year budget plan where, in fact, a significant portion of those savings were shared with taxpayers immediately while other amounts were used to create protections and opportunities to mitigate taxes in the future. We were able to craft this plan relying on the projected savings of moving the employee health plan to the state GIC and the judicious use of available cash reflecting the Town’s overall strong financial condition.Over what turned out to be a four (4) year period we accomplished the following goals for Framingham taxpayers, present and future:
As a commentary for the future, let me wrap up by saying that this has been one of the most satisfying and productive collaborative efforts of my 39 years in local government because it was both strategic (multi-year) and collaborative. It was successful in meeting all of the strategic goals articulated to the Selectmen in 2013. We took the time on the front end to think it through but, more importantly, to explain it and seek buy-in from all the government stakeholders at the time whose support was required at any particular point in time. By the time we were presenting these goals and concepts as part of the FY 2014 Town budget, we had gained the understanding and support of not only the Selectmen but the School Committee, the Finance Committee, the Standing Committee on Ways and Means and the Capital Budget Committee.
Thank you all for your encouragement and support during the time I have had the privilege of serving the Framingham community. I wish you the best and further success moving into the future.