At an annual review of the state of town finances before the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, April 24, auditors from the firm Sullivan, Rogers and Company declared that all was in good order for fiscal 2011, which ended on June 30.
One key indicator of financial health, explained lead auditor Matt Hunt, is the percentage of funds designated as unassigned, which was up in fiscal 2011.
“The town’s actually done a really good job of building up reserves that were depleted a bit in previous years,” said Hunt. “The key… was conservative spending against appropriations.”
Furthermore, continued Hunt, Sudbury has proven very responsive to suggestions for process improvements from his firm. While there were several new recommendations based on the latest audit, Hunt deemed all of them minor, such as ensuring that invoices be dated and signed by the appropriate supervisors.
Also up for consideration by the selectmen was the whether Sudbury should enter into a new three-year agreement with Sullivan, Rogers and Company, which has served as the town’s auditor for the last 10 years.
Selectman Bob Haarde questioned whether it might be time to consider a new firm to get a fresh perspective. However, fellow selectmen and members of town staff pressed to stay the current course, particularly since Sullivan, Rogers, and Company is already poised to transition Sudbury to a higher standard of financial reporting over the next several years, which will make fuller use of historical financial benchmarks.
“I’m really pleased with the service we’ve had from the present firm,” said Selectman John Drobinski. “I’m not sure that making a change just to make a change helps the community.”
At Chairman Larry O’Brien’s suggestion, the board ultimately opted to extend Sudbury’s relationship with the present company for three more years, contingent upon a progress report in six months that could help inform the selectmen on whether to seek a new auditor before the three years is up.
The full FY11 audit report will be made available to the public on the Sudbury town website, coming soon.
In an annual review of another type, representatives of the Sudbury Planning Board were on hand to provide a brief overview of the past year’s activities in advance of the Town Meeting on May 7, for which that board has presented several articles.
Planning Board Chair Michael Fee stated that his board had approved one new five-lot subdivision in 2011, the first since 2007 due to the financial downturn. Other areas of focus for the board have been monitoring compliance by new developers with the town’s latest storm-water management regulations, as well as spearheading studies and public forums about future zoning for the business district along Route 20 where a proposed sewer system may be built.
Selectman Haarde pressed Fee on several points, most significantly questioning why an inclusionary zoning bylaw to allow Sudbury better control over affordable housing was not going to Town Meeting this year.
“Done is better than perfect,” said Haarde, citing previous discussions between the boards on this topic in recent years. “Why didn’t you come back to us with a proposal?”
Fee for his part responded that the Planning Board had found the guidance it had received from the selectmen on inclusionary zoning confusing.
“Frankly, we struggled with the concept; we spent a lot of time talking about it,” said Fee. “But ultimately… we wanted to look at inclusionary zoning in broader context.”
Both Fee and Haarde suggested that the boards collaborate more closely in future to ensure that issues and ideas be raised in a timely way.
Two other items of note were also addressed at Tuesday’s meeting.
1) The Board of Selectmen concluded a public hearing on the refurbishment of the Village Green shopping and professional complex located at 29 Hudson Road by granting approval to the property’s new developers. The approval was contingent upon the owners meeting a number of minor conditions, including continuing to work with the town on landscaping, lighting, and fire safety. Construction will be underway on the property throughout the summer, and the complex is slated to be renamed Sudbury Town Square.
2) The small task force assigned to help Sudbury’s plan to provide property-tax relief to lower income seniors gain necessary state approval as a pilot program offered a preliminary update on its progress to the board on Tuesday. While the specifics of the change would be complex and state support is not assured, approval of the plan now seems possible in time for implementation in fiscal 2014. The task force will provide a full report to the selectmen at a special meeting on May 1.