My vision for the City of Holyoke is one shared by many people of every corner of the City and that is to cultivate an environment within our local government and our neighborhoods that is sustainable so that we can support the very efforts that help build our community. Like everyone else, I want to see strong economic development, good public education, advanced public safety efforts, and quality municipal services. First however, we need to work from the middle out and make necessary system changes that will safeguard public funds, protect local assets, and establish a system that complies with financial standards and regulations.
How we manage our resources determine greatly how much we can adequately support our departments to provide services the community expects. Each of the City’s local government functions and local community organizations are very dependent on how well we operate financially.
When I first arrived as Blandford’s Town Administrator three years ago, the Town was in a very similar situation as Holyoke. There were consistent years of negative free cash balances and untimely reporting to the MA Department of Revenue. Accounts weren’t being reconciled regularly if at all and there were multiple deficit accounts that were not being addressed; vendors were not being paid timely and payroll was often impacted. There was no internal controls or accountability and no trust between departments and elected/appointed officials. Additionally, no audit had taken place since 2012. When I stepped in, I quickly realized the immediate need to get its financial house in order and we did while cultivating an environment of collaboration at Town Hall which reflected positively throughout the community. We reorganized and professionalized financial departments and made system changes to provide greater efficiency and accountability. The changes implemented allowed for an improved budget setting process, timely closing of books of previous fiscal years and reporting, strong free cash certification balances, a much more efficient warrant processing and payroll system, and timely completion of annual audits. With these core functions operating how they should be and it’s in-house in order, we have been able to maximize on the town’s available resources through grants and local appropriations and made numerous strategic investments in infrastructure, capital upgrades, and multiple investments in stabilization. This is the kind of progress I want to bring to Holyoke!