Bennington officials unveil first draft of self-grading system


BENNINGTON — The Select Board plans to start grading the town. The first draft of what will become its report card was unveiled at Monday's board meeting.

"Historically, the town has always taken a rear-view mirror approach to what happened during the previous year and is congratulating ourselves, or whipping ourselves," said board Chairman Thomas Jacobs. "The purpose of this scorecard is to be prospective in our view, and also to create benchmarks and hopeful expectations for the town, both government and the Select Board."

Board member John McFadden had spurred the board towards creating a way to measure its progress and to better understand areas where the town needed to improve. The board formed a committee where he, and board members Michael Keane and Sharyn Brush created the first draft of the "Balanced Scorecard."

Keane, who gave the full board a presentation on the draft, said the balanced scorecard is something businesses he has worked with in the past use to take stock of themselves to see where they succeeded, where they feel short, and where they failed.

A balanced scorecard looks at many things, not just finances. They take stock of, "...things like customer service, and citizen satisfaction, efficiency of operations, and effectiveness of operations, the capacity of innovation and learning in a town organization," said Keane.

He said in drafting the Bennington scorecard, the committee looked at similar devices from other towns. It also spoke with the Select Board, as well as the town administration, to gather their input.

This scorecard would look at how the town manages resources, how it serves the community, how it runs operations, and how well it learns and innovates.

Under each of these headings are more specific subjects, such as crime rates, job growth, growth of the grand list, occupied industrial and commercial space, and road maintenance

Keane said what's being looked at will be compared to benchmarks, set by looking at comparable communities Bennington is either similar to, or would like to emulate. The scorecard will likely be adjusted as time goes on.

He said the measurements are fairly simple, stating plainly whether or not a target goal was reached.

The next steps will involve Town Manager Stuart Hurd overseeing how data will be collected for the scorecard, and the board coming up with how to best depict the results "in a clear, visual way," Keane said.

Thousand of towns and other entities across the world use balanced scorecards, he said, and cited an article in VTDigger reporting that the Vermont Chamber of Commerce will be adopting its principles as well.

— Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567 Ext. 115


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