The TASC List: Can we talk?

Communications breakthroughs: Obama to Iranian president; McCain to Russian people via Pravda; Putin to NYT readers. Closer to home there is a gap in Wilton between those proposing projects and budget requirements with significant financial impact, and the Board of Finance in conjunction with ultimate taxpayers who should understand the propositions.

Here’s a suggestion aimed at advancing the useful interchange of information between parties.

Dialogues are sometimes distorted and difficult; vocabulary, terms, and glossaries are different. Frames of reference are often so parochial that the underlying requirement statements being advanced are blurred or unintelligible. The results are lost time, flawed value determinations, and impaired confidence with decisions and outcomes.

Let’s address the problems on at least two levels at the outset.

The first would be a set of common definitions and rules for the submission and analysis of all financial requirements, budget requests, and matters whose price tags are beyond a defined dollar limit. The packaging of the submission would include a problem statement, executive overview, solution outline, financial analysis, and conclusion/recommendations. These are minimum elements.

The second would be those generally accepted methods, procedures, and frameworks for the deliberation of reasonableness, rationale, and informed taxpayer support for significant propositions. Examples of these might include the standard business case development and methodology; the cost and benefits approach for assessing margins of favorable results; the return on investment platforms that portray real yield in terms of outflow of cost and expense; statistical methods to illuminate the significance of a particular direction and/or the likelihood of achieving positive ends; and so forth.

Net: Definitions and Rules; Methods and Procedures. These commonplace categories, spelled out with sufficient detail to be understood by program and department manager, as well as functional CFO, might go a long way toward the ends we all seek: discipline, clarity, consistency, conformity (to accepted principles), and a workable platform for more effective deliberation.

So who prepares those categorical details? A small committee composed of two Board of Finance members, the town’s chief financial officer, and the school district’s finance director are all that’s required. Certainly it would be refreshing if some Wilton citizens with both expertise and interest in the subject could be included. The exercise is not exhausting. Most of the material already exists in handbooks and guides for the administration and policy considerations related to project evaluation.

Yes, we can talk. Among functions, between enterprises, and within citizen and voting groups. Especially if the noise, the distractions, and the lack of clarity are minimized or eliminated. Better communication builds a firmer foundation for a stronger community.

TASC stands for Toward A Stronger Community. Information: