Aquinnah wants transparency with new software

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Aquinnah selectmen decided to look further into purchasing the services of ClearGov, a software platform that works with municipalities nationwide to make government more transparent by helping citizens learn how their tax dollars are being spent.

ClearGov market development executive Tom Heffernan went before selectmen to describe how the ClearGov platform could help make the town’s financial information more accessible to residents. A link from the Aquinnah town website would let members of the public see exactly how many of their tax dollars are going to different government funds. The town would send ClearGov its public financial information, and they would put it into their system

“This is a way to effectively show what those of us who work with the town budget every year know. Most of our finances — the largest portion of them — are beyond our control. They’re regional agreements, and they’re insurance. The discretionary funding here is always within reason. This will demonstrate conclusively for anybody to know that we are indeed being fiscally prudent. I think it’s a great tool,” town administrator Jeff Madison said.

The service will cost the town $3,500 a year, which is determined by the size of town’s annual budget. Heffernan said he would waive the $1,200 startup fee as a way to increase their initiative on the Island and get the town on board. Town selectmen voted to continue looking into the program.

In other business, town selectmen are planning talks with town counsel Ron Rappaport and town assessors concerning tax abatements that were not granted to property owner James Decoulos. Decoulos has been battling with the town for several years over several lots that he owns. Selectmen voted to postpone the discussion until Sept. 4.

Town selectmen approved to lease a 2018 Ford Escape for $452.86 a month, which will be left off-Island for town use. Instead of putting the lease out to bid, the town is using the Municipal Leasing Group, a state-approved group that leases cars to towns. At the end of the lease term, the town can pay $1 and take title to the car. If no money is appropriated for the lease at the town meeting next year, the town can return the vehicle.