WHITMAN – Could Whitman and Hanson share accounting services?
Interim Town Administrator Frank Lynam asked that question during the Tuesday, Dec. 20 Select Board meeting. The board expressed their willingness to give Lynam authority to explore the issue.
“I would like to look at the possibility of engaging either an accountant or an accounting service – probably, preferably an accountant that could divide his or her time between the towns of Whitman and Hanson and the formula should be relatively easily based on transactional workload,” Lynam said, suggesting a formula could be formulated that is acceptable to both. He stressed that he is not saying the town would hire someone right away.
“All I’m asking for is to see if the board is amenable to my pursuing this a little further in finding out what the level of interest might be in Hanson and whether or not it’s in our mutual interest to do something like this,” Lynam said. “If there isn’t, nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
Both towns are currently without an accountant after their accountants – who in both cases, were working one day per week – resigned in Hanson’s case,
[see related story page 1] and accepted a position as treasurer/collector in Whitman.
Whitman is currently contracting with Eric Kinscherf, who had also offered his services to Hanson, but that town is issuing a request for proposals for the work.
Lynam said that, while the arrangement with Kinscherf is working out well, it raised the question of what the town really needs in terms of accounting services.
Whitman is a town of 14,000 people with a budget of $43 million. Hanson has about 9,000 people with a budget of between $31 million and $32 million.
“The logical thought that occurs to me is, ‘Can we team together and take a regional approach to accounting,” Lynam said. “Franklin County Council of Government does that very well.
Hanson’s former accountant Todd Hassett also provided services for several towns, with Hanson being a one-day-a-week service, he noted. Whitman also has had accounting services for one day a week and it has been working.
With today’s technology, he said it is easier to maintain operations and records electronically, which takes a lot of the concern out of it.
Vice Chair Dan Salvucci asked if a larger group of towns would be worth looking into for a regional approach, but was in favor of exploring the idea.
The larger the group, the more demands are going to be placed on a person,” Lynam said about a larger regional effort.
Select Board member Shawn Kain said he felt having someone like former accountant Ken Lytle on staff is a valuable resource for the town and the Select Board, and a new town administrator might want to take a different path.
“I wouldn’t mind doing something like this for short term to get us through a period of time, but I feel like it’s a big decision to make as far as the financial team is concerned,” he said.
Select Board member Justin Evans said it is an interesting thing to explore and went a step further, asking if – since the two towns are already in a region with regard to the schools – there might be precedent for adding accounting services to that mix.
“Boy, what could go wrong with that?” Select Board member Dr. Carl Kowalski said.
“I think that our work load for the two towns vs the region are significant enough that I wouldn’t want to put one service handling all three,” Lynam said.
Meanwhile, Lynam is working to “develop a potential candidate” for the Town Administrator search in the wake of the withdrawals of one of the three finalists before the scheduled interviews at the last meeting.
However, he said he as not in the position to publicly “out” that person because they were not prepared for that at this point.
“But we may have an opportunity in the very near future to address that need,” he said.
In other business, Evans sought the board’s consensus regarding issues they see are important during the regional agreement as the committee plans to meet next on Jan. 9.
“This is the third go at amending a regional agreement in the last five years or so,” Evans said. “Assuming that all the work we’ve done with MARS (Mass. Association of Regional Schools) and DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) and we use that as kind of a template for where we want to take the new regional agreement – and including the statutory method that we incorporated in 2020 – if we just take that as a framework, I’m looking at any other direction that the board would like to go.”
First on Evans’ list is middle school field leases, but that is further down the agenda and can wait. He also wants to focus on the way busing is handled in the district, especially since there initially wasn’t the financial incentive to discover deficiencies like they did last year.
“If we wrote into the regional agreement [that] non-mandated students wil be bused to school … that puts the effort back on the district to find savings,” he said.
Kowalski agreed that non-mandated busing must be formalized and the whole relationship clarified, including reimbursement questions, in the regional agreement.