PITTSFIELD — Although the Town Council has approved the $6.1 million municipal budget for 2023, councilors said they plan to refine the budgeting process in the coming year so they have better understanding of funding requests.

“The system we have right now is not right. It works (but) it can be worked a lot better and be a lot more efficient,” Mayor Michael Cianchette said at an earlier budget workshop. “The way information is handled and communication is done needs to be looked at and adjusted.”

Councilors expressed frustrations during budget deliberations and are hoping to adjust expectations before beginning next year’s budgeting process.

Unlike other area communities, Pittsfield’s budget runs the calendar year — January through December — instead of the fiscal year. Department heads create budget requests and discuss them with the town manager. The requests then go to the Town Council.

The town has a finance committee that can review department budgets and request more information, but the committee’s level of involvement in the process varies from year to year, Town Manager Kathryn Ruth said.

Many of the issues raised by councilors this year come down to wanting greater clarity and communication from town employees, including clearer numbers from Ruth about what a department is requesting, how much money had been approved in past years and how much money had actually been spent in recent years.


“This is not how you do a budget, and I’m not trying to offend anyone,” Councilor Lindsay Holmstrom said at a November workshop. “This is archaic and disjointed, and there’s hundreds of pages. I’m surprised that it’s gone to 2022 before this has become a bigger issue.”

Another change town councilors seek is to have municipal departments maintain line-item budgets so each expenditure is specifically allocated and spent, instead of having staff members moving money around within departments’ budgets.

Councilors asked several department heads this year to justify funding requests to explain why certain amounts had been requested and what information or knowledge supported the requests.

“Part of it was the fact that we had so much effort put into trying to understand what was being asked for,” Cianchette told the Morning Sentinel last week. “The other thing was we had questions that weren’t easily answered as to: ‘What was the last year? What was changed this year? Why are you asking for this amount or that amount? What are the details on that?'”

The Town Council wants to see that further level of involvement, Councilor Ronald Jester said Friday.

“The biggest items that we are trying to see is growth in ownership from all members of the town leadership team,” Jester said, “and more understanding and involvement of the processes and their fiscal responsibility.”


Jester said the mix of experienced and new councilors this year allowed the increased scrutiny on the budget, and helped the town think more creatively when it came to adjusting the budgeting process.

Much of this will likely be solved next year with improved communication with department heads, Ruth said.

Ruth said she distributes a memorandum each year outlining the Town Council’s expectations and what staff members should be preparing. That memorandum is to be adjusted in 2023, she said, to reflect changes the council has requested.

Cianchette and Jester said the issue is a matter of improving on past practices. The aim is not to suggest town employees are doing something wrong or trying to hide anything, Cianchette said. Instead, the goal is to ensure high levels of accuracy and transparency for residents.

“We’re asking questions to understand the process,” Cianchette said. “And we as counselors, with our responsibilities that we’ve been given by the taxpayers, if we understand the process, we can help develop a more efficient, fiscally responsible routine.”

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