, Salem, MA

April 8, 2013

Letter: Wenham's finances in good hands

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

This letter is intended to provide insight and reassurance to Wenham residents that the town’s Finance Department continues to provide necessary and appropriate services in an uninterrupted manner. Wenham’s track record with its outside auditors remains sound. The functions of the department, such as collecting taxes and paying the town’s bills, continue in a timely manner. There is no feedback from any objective source that indicates otherwise.

The hard work of the Finance Department, town administrator and Baystate Municipal Accounting Group is worthy of recognition. Additional resources will likely add efficiency by reducing demands on our senior financial personnel. It is for this reason that additional resources were acquired very soon after the resignation of our former finance director last December. This approach is worth continuing, with additional part-time support to take full advantage of the expertise already present in the department.

Questions around this matter are rightly the topic of debate and careful consideration, consideration that has gone into the administration’s evaluation of how best to stabilize a department that has experienced some wrenching changes in the past few years. What is the best configuration of human resources to fulfill the functions required by law and provide requisite services to taxpayers and town departments? How can Wenham provide these services in the most cost-effective way?

A proposal for staffing this office is included in the fiscal year 2014 budget approved by the Finance and Advisory Committee that will come before voters at Town Meeting on April 6. It includes the hiring of two additional part-time staff and a line item for a contract finance director.

There are good reasons why this proposal makes sense.

First, staffing the finance director position in this manner presents an opportunity to acquire finance director expertise (increasingly difficult to find in today’s extremely competitive marketplace) to a degree sufficient to meet the needs of the town while reducing overall cost to the taxpayer. Second, it allocates the right level of expertise to the tasks that the Finance Department is legally required to perform. And third, it provides additional resources to assist in ensuring that all the important tasks of the department are addressed.

Wenham must be willing to consider new and innovative ways to solve recurrent problems, especially when that innovation presents both a minimal risk and the opportunity for substantial cost saving to the taxpayer, with no reduction in service or quality. We all share the goal of providing a high level of service in the Finance Department. And we all applaud the professional and hardworking team that staffs the department. This proposal will maintain that high level of quality — effectively and efficiently.

Kenneth Whittaker

Wenham selectman


Chairman, Wenham Finance and Advisory Committee