Town Manager? Town Administrator?
The Select Board Evaluates Options
On Monday, September 24th, Lorraine Hansen, as Chairperson of the Ad Hoc Town Manager Committee, presented the Committee’s findings to the Select Board. It was a concise summary of the almost 50 page final report which compared Rollinsford to 15 other towns with similar population and property valuation. Not surprisingly, the Committee found that the amount of time and money Rollinsford has for administrative support is below what the other 15 communities have. Further, the Committee is recommending that the Select Board hire a Town Manager or Town Administrator.
After the presentation the Select Board opened a public hearing for the public to weigh in on the information presented to them. While the Select Board deliberates on the information presented and the options before them, we thought it prudent to share with the wider public the questions posed during the public hearing with answers in order to better inform the residents of the situation at hand.
What is the role of the Select Board?
These three elected officials are charged by law to run the town. The law specifically speaks to managing the budget, assessing and welfare but the Board also signs all contracts and essentially acts collectively as the CEO of the town.
Why are we short staffed all of a sudden?
The fact is, we never had adequate staff at the town office but the issue is compounded by increasing demands from the public and state and federal government agencies. As we move forward, we can expect more demands from both the state and federal governments that require professionally trained staff to handle.
How many employees does Rollinsford have? Can any of those people take on more tasks?
The town employs 8 full-time and approximately 20 part-time people not including elected officials and our on-call fire department. Only three people work regularly in the town office: the tax collector, town clerk and the administrative assistant. The administrative assistant is full time, and the other two people work other jobs. The town clerk is an elected official whose duties are set by law and include registrations, dog licenses, and births, deaths and marriages. The Select Board does not have the authority to delegate additional duties to that office or control the position’s working hours.
It would be in the best interest of the town to have one responsible individual managing operations.
What is the difference between a Town Manager and a Town Administrator?
Town managers have the authority to hire and fire employees whereas town administrators have whatever authority the select board delegates to them. Adopting a town manager form of government requires the approval of the legislative body at town meeting. The select board has the authority to hire a town administrator at any time. The New Hampshire Municipal Association published an FAQ on their website with more information: https://www.nhmunicipal.org/TownAndCity/Article/248
What is the ultimate goal?
The governing body of the town should be a diverse group representative of the residents of Rollinsford. That will no doubt include working individuals. The goal is to provide consistent, professional management of daily operations regardless of the time, talent and education of elected officials. With proper administrative support, the Select Board can focus more of their time making strategic planning decisions while staff is performing essential daily functions. With proper staff oversight, Rollinsford also has the potential to benefit from numerous state and federal funding sources for projects and essential services.
The final report of the Ad Hoc Town Manager Committee is available on the town website: https://rollinsford.nh.us/boards-committees/town-manager-ad-hoc-committee/