SELECT BOARD BASIC ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The Select Board serves as a town’s chief executive body. They have overall responsibility for the general operations of town government. They are the non-school appointing authority for a town. They are authorized to enter into contracts on behalf of the municipality.
While most other town boards and offices serve a particular function (e.g., assessors, finance, school, health), the Select Board’s responsibilities are much broader. Their job is one of sorting out the various positions of different departments and boards to determine the best overall course of action for the town. The Select Board should play an active and strong role in the financial management of the town.
A major role of the Select Board should be to coordinate the roles of all players in the financial management process and to promote an approach for addressing the fiscal issues of the town. Select Board should participate in the budget process, directly reviewing budget requests and having input at all levels of the process. They should provide leadership in the development of a capital improvement program and a risk management policy (i.e., insurance). Throughout the fiscal year, the Select Board (in conjunction with the finance committee), should monitor the financial performance of the town. Finally, the Select Board should assume an active role in any issue or policy that has broad implications for the financial condition of the town, including such issues as tax classification, free cash policy, use of a stabilization fund, financial reporting and the audit process.
The Select Board decides whom to employ as Town Counsel and who has access to town Counsel. No town official can be defended, nor can they bring suit through the town counsel without the Select Board's approval. No head of a department, commission, committee, or town employee, can consult Town counsel without permission of the Select Board. Regional School committees have specific authorization to employ and select their own counsel and do not use the Town’s Counsel.
The Select Board is responsible for preparing the town meeting warrant and scheduling special town meetings, as well as deciding what articles go on town meeting warrants for voter consideration.
The Select Board appoints people to town boards, committees and offices, and appoints replacements when vacancies occur.
The Select Board is responsible for hiring, appointing, and removal, of all municipal employes who are not elected.
The Select Board is the sole authority to sign warrants for the payment of town bills. The Town Treasurer cannot issue a check until the Select Board has signed a warrant of authorization to pay a bill.
KEY INGREDIENTS FOR SUCCESS OF THE SELECT BOARD
Perhaps the most important ingredient for success as a Select Board member is understanding the full responsibilities of the position as well as its limitations. The Select Board serves as the civic leaders of the town. In this capacity, the Select Board needs to devote sufficient time to municipal issues, and, also needs the ability to delegate, to those who are qualified and capable to administer the appropriate tasks and responsibilities. The Select Board develops policies and the appropriate department head, board or officer is responsible for administering those policies consistent with the intent of the Select Board. However, the Select Board also serves an oversight and assessment role, and as such, is ultimately responsible for the successful administration of town policies and undertakings.
Since most Select Boards appoint many positions, their ability to recruit and select the best and brightest people available is another key ingredient to the success of the town. This is particularly important for any appointments in the area of financial management. The individuals who serve in positions such as treasurer, collector and accountant will determine the quality of the fiscal management of the town. For such appointed positions, it is important that the Select Board identify and document the requisite qualifications and experience and establish specific measurements of performance. The Select Board should also support fair and competitive compensation for key town employes. Competitive compensation can help the Select Board retain the most qualified individuals to serve in important positions.
The Select Board should also take an active interest in the reports produced by the financial officers of the town. They should ensure that the reports are prepared and should review them with the assistance of the person or board that prepared them. Financial reports can seem overly technical and unreadable for the fiscal neophyte. However, with a minimum of help, the reports can be read and accurately understood. For most financial officers, their job is made easier when the Select Board understands and takes an active interest in the town’s financial reports.
ROLE OF THE SELECT BOARD IN THE BUDGET PROCESS
As the chief executive body of the town, the Select Board develops and implements policy. It is important that they develop consistent budget guidelines, at the same time taking into consideration the available financial resources of the municipality. Because the budget is probably the single most important policy document a town develops each year, participation by the Select Board is essential to their maintaining a leadership role in the town. The Select Board should have input concerning the budget’s format; they should review all budget requests and develop a good understanding of the Finance Committee’s position on the budget. The Select Board, in cooperation with the finance committee, should also establish policy priorities and provide leadership in the constant debate between the needs of municipal departments (for sufficient resources to deliver public services) and the needs of the tax payers (to receive adequate services at a cost they can afford).