FinCom Chair Responds to Allegation

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READING, MA — After a final review of the proposed Fiscal Year 2025 budget by the Finance Committee (FinCom) on Wednesday, FinCom chair Edward Ross made a statement regarding comments made by Select Board member Christopher Haley about the chair of the FinCom at the previous evening’s Select Board meeting. Ross stated that the implication, made by Haley, that he had a “stranglehold” of the chair of the FinCom was inaccurate as “the facts state otherwise.”

Haley made the comment as he asserted his belief that the choosing of a chair for the Select Board had become politicized. Haley suggested that the role of chair of FinCom was also politicized, as FinCom member Maryanne Downing was equally as qualified as Ross to chair the committee but had not been selected as chair during her time on the committee.

Downing shared that she had no idea that her name would be brought up during the Select Board discussion.

In his third year as chair, Ross continued, stating that the chair is “not something I have asked for or campaigned for.” He also noted that when he became chair this year, he would not accept the role when the FinCom next reorganizes.

“I do not appreciate any insinuation of a stranglehold on power, especially when it is so easily debunked,” Ross declared.

Ross then reminded the committee that FinCom was the only participating committee in which neither the chair nor the vice chair was chosen to serve on the American Rescue Plan Act Advisory Committee. He also noted that he himself had nominated Downing for the role of vice chair of FinCom when it last reorganized.

Regarding the Select Board meeting, Ross stated that he was “embarrassed” by the events of the past few weeks. He also apologized to new Town Manager Matthew Kraunelis, “I am sorry your first few days as town manager have started this way. You deserve better, the town deserves better,” Ross said.

FinCom moved on to unanimously recommend seven April Town Meeting warrant articles relating to financial issues to Town Meeting, including changes to the capital plan and the FY 2024 budget, using funds left over from the Parker Middle School roof project to repair a fire alarm panel at Coolidge Middle School, and funds to begin the design phase for replacement of the floor and bleachers in the field house at Reading Memorial High School. 

FinCom also unanimously recommended every line item of the FY 2025 budget to Town Meeting.

FinCom adjourned at 9:00 pm.

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