Councilor seeks to form ad hoc committee to address long-term financial obligations

At-large Councilor Dave Flaherty. (THE WESTFIELD NEWS FILE PHOTO)

WESTFIELD – As promised, At-large Councilor Dave Flaherty has placed a number of motions on the Thursday, July 2 Council agenda regarding Westfield’s financial process going forward.

Flaherty, who chairs the ad-hoc Long-Range Finance Committee with council members Brent B. Bean, II and Bridget Matthews-Kane, was a dissenter on this year’s budget, stating that it did not address long-term obligations, such as the city’s retirement and other post-employee benefits (OPEB).

The four motions he is proposing Thursday intend to address these long-term issues.

“Some of them are steps necessary to put us on the right path and address some of the issues that came up in this year’s budget process,” Flaherty said.

The first motion is asking Council President Bean to form a five-member ad-hoc “Defined Contribution Retirement Plan Committee,” made up of councilors representing Finance, Long Range Finance, Personnel Action, Government Relations and Legislative & Ordinance committees.

In a second motion, Flaherty is asking the Mayor to appropriate $35,000 from FY21 Free Cash to fund professional services to explore moving from a Defined Benefit Retirement Plan to a Defined Look Contribution Retirement Plan for employees not already in the system.

Flaherty is also asking the Law Department to clarify the rules and procedures for establishing an elected Charter Commission.

“The City Charter is the base law that we have in Westfield and how we’re organized. In order to fix some of the problems we have, we have to go back to the Charter.   One of the things I wanted to change is the terms of appointed officials, right now is written as a term of three-years. I would like to change them to a term of up to three years, so people won’t automatically be hired for three years.  Other people want to change the term of Mayor to four years. It’s something we should investigate,” Flaherty said.

Finally, Flaherty is requesting the Mayor to engage the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Division of Local Services, or the Center for Public Management to refresh the 2010 Financial Management Review Document, and specifically address the development of a realistic plan to fund pension and OPEB liabilities, among other issues.

“In 2010, the council engaged the Department of Revenue to review our financial management.  We followed some of their recommendations but not all.  It’s to review what we’ve done in the last ten years, and address specific concerns as we approach the Prop 2 1/2 levy limit,” Flaherty said.

Ward 6 Councilor William Onyski also has a motion on the agenda to investigate and possibly recommend an ordinance on bee-keeping.

Also on the agenda, Department of Public Works Director David Billips is scheduled to update councilors on Wells 7 and 8, which went online beginning this week, and to answer questions that were submitted to him in advance of the meeting.

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