By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer
MARLBOROUGH – A six-session municipal government course for Marlborough residents wrapped up on May 26 after covering the operation of city departments and answering questions on how money raised through taxes is used.
Executive Aide to the Mayor’s Office Trish Bernard said the course, which was limited to 30 interested participants, also worked as a trial for further municipal government classes in the future.
“It went really well,” Mayor Arthur Vigeant added. “We’ll do some tweaks next year to make it run better.”
Bernard said that the city wanted to use this class to highlight transparency and to educate about the core procedures for each city department.
Each session covered a group of different city functions, often organized around a common theme. For instance, the third session covered finance and taxes, teaching about the roles of the Finance Director, the Assessor’s Office and the Collector’s Office.
Department heads presented sections on their areas of expertise, while Vigeant and City Council President Michael Ossing moderated the sessions. Bernard said that future classes would cover more departments, like the public schools.
Bernard also said that the city would consider holding the classes, which were held virtually, in person. It could, further, change the time to accommodate more people.
She also added that one of the motivations for holding these classes was to potentially find new volunteers for future boards and commissions in Marlborough.
“We’re hoping, too, that we can even potentially get high school students more interested in municipal government because there is definitely a lag of incoming candidates to fill open positions in municipal government,” Bernard said. “That is across the board, really.”
Vigeant said that the city is planning to post videos of the sessions, which are currently available on the Marlborough website, on Facebook or WMCT-TV, to make them more accessible for residents who did not take part in the course.
In a post-class survey that ten of the students answered, nine replied that they would recommend the course to a friend or family member, with the other student replying “Maybe.”
Sean Navin, a Marlborough city councilor who took the course, was excited to support the effort of instructors.
Navin said he thought the course reaffirmed the commitment of those who work for the city while teaching him about what residents want from their government.
“I thought the best part was it really gave everybody who was interested an opportunity to ask a question and learn why things are done the way they are,” Navin said.
Eric Sigillo, a Marlborough resident who took the course meanwhile said that he wanted to see more statistics, especially using parameters where the operational performance of departments in Marlborough could be measured against other Massachusetts cities.
“I wanted to learn more about how the different departments of the city operate compared to other departments of similar cities in the Commonwealth so that I would understand that I am getting a good return on my tax dollar,” he said.
Sigillo also recommended an organizational chart showing where different departments are located in the structure of the city government for the Marlborough website.
Bernard recognized that latter suggestion in particular as a positive outcome of the course.
“Some of the residents came up with some ideas that department heads hadn’t thought about, something as simple as including an organizational chart on the city website,” she said. “So, we’re going to update that and have it available on the city website.”