ORIGINS OF FINANCE COMMITTEES IN MASSACHUSETTS
In 1870, a group of Quincy citizens banded together to restore financial order in their municipality, creating the Commonwealth’s first finance committee. In 1910, the Massachusetts courts ruled that a municipal finance committee was legal. In that same year, the Massachusetts General Court also acknowledged the need for municipal finance committees statewide, requiring all but the smallest municipalities to establish such committees to assist in dealing with emerging municipal challenges.
Although municipal charters vary considerably, the most basic role of a finance committee is to represent the interests of a town’s citizens, according to the founding fathers’ principle of “separation of powers”. In practice, this means that a finance committee should speak out and make recommendations on any issue that may affect the well-being of the town’s citizenry
PURPOSE OF THE FINANCE COMMITTEE
- · The Finance Committee represents the legislative branch of town government, Town Meeting, and serves as the Town’s official fiscal watchdog.
- · Its primary responsibility is to advise and make recommendations to Town Meeting on the budget and other areas with financial implications.
- · The Finance Committee also has other specific legal powers, including the administration of the Town’s “reserve fund”.
- ACCOUNTABILITY OF THE FINANCE COMMITTEE
- · The Finance Committee is ultimately accountable to Town Meeting which will make its judgments based on the quality of the advice it provides to Town Meeting.
- · The primary responsibility of the Finance Committee is to advise Town Meeting. Because appropriation authority rests with Town Meeting, the power that the Finance Committee holds is a function of the credibility it has earned with Town Meeting members.
* excerpted from: Town of Provincetown Finance Committee Statement of Roles & Responsibilities