Offering Clarification

To the Editor:

I read with great interest the recent Letter to the Editor from Chris Collings concerning the spending habits of the Town of Marion. In particular, Mr. Collings describes the spending habits of the Town as “uncontrolled.” He lays the blame squarely on the use of “Free Cash,” describing its use as “undisciplined behavior.”

Recognizing that the language of municipal government can be confusing, it would first be helpful to truly and accurately define this thing we call “free cash.” It is a revenue source that results from the calculation, as of July 1st in any given year, of a community’s remaining, unrestricted funds from its operations of the previous fiscal year based on the balance sheet as of June 30th. It typically includes actual receipts in excess of revenue estimates and unspent amounts in departmental budget line items for the fiscal year just ended, plus unexpended free cash from the previous year.

Like most cities and towns, Marion uses free cash to support current-year operations. In fact, it is well established and sound financial policy for a town to generate free cash in an amount equal to three to five percent of its annual budget. This goal helps deter free cash from being depleted in any particular year. To accomplish this, we generate conservative revenue projections and departmental appropriations.

As a nonrecurring revenue source, free cash should be primarily restricted to paying one-time expenditures, funding capital projects, or replenishing other reserves. In concert with prudent debt management and the establishment of reserves, free cash is an integral part of a plan to manage municipal finances in both the short-term and the long-term. The use of free cash as outlined is neither “undisciplined behavior” nor is it “unfettered spending.”

If, in fact, the Town’s spending habits were as described by Mr. Collings, it is hard to imagine that Marion would achieve and maintain a “AAA” bond rating. Such a rating is granted only to those operations demonstrating strong and prudent financial discipline with a high degree of credit worthiness. We are proud of that designation and work hard every day to maintain it.

Thank you for the opportunity to offer this clarification.


Jonathan “Jody” Dickerson, Chairman

Marion Board of Selectmen

The views expressed in the “Letters to the Editor” column are not necessarily those of The Wanderer, its staff or advertisers. The Wanderer will gladly accept any and all correspondence relating to timely and pertinent issues in the great Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester area, provided they include the author’s name, address and phone number for verification. We cannot publish anonymous, unsigned or unconfirmed submissions. The Wanderer reserves the right to edit, condense and otherwise alter submissions for purposes of clarity and/or spacing considerations. The Wanderer may choose to not run letters that thank businesses, and The Wanderer has the right to edit letters to omit business names. The Wanderer also reserves the right to deny publication of any submitted correspondence.


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