Topics: Municipal Finance

What Is OPEB And Why Should You Care About It?

By: Tim Wood

CHATHAM – The acronym OPEB has been popping up more and more often in municipal finance discussions. It's one of those arcane accounting elements that makes the eyes glaze over, but in actuality has a significant impact on the town's finances. Last week the town's OPEB trust fund board of directors held a forum to educate the public and provide background on the topic. The following information was gleaned from t...

Will Residents Pay To Play At Nauset Beach?

By: Ed Maroney

ORLEANS – If the town's beaches can be considered among the best things in life, then for residents the best things in life are free. That won't be the case if a proposed new resident beach parking sticker fee makes it to town meeting and is approved. Of course, taxpayers support the beaches financially in other ways already, but a resident sticker fee has always been a step too far. Last week, the selectme...

HARWICH — With help from a health insurance windfall and a proposal to raise the local hotel-motel base tax from 4 to 6 percent, Town Administrator Christopher Clark has presented selectmen with a proposal for a balanced budget for fiscal 2020. Clark’s proposed $70,257,941 spending plan represents a 7.8 percent increase over the current year’s budget and aims to keep a similar level of service without the ne...

Fire Engine Swap Could Save Harwich $1 Million

By: William F. Galvin

HARWICH — Fire Chief Norman Clarke wants to make changes to the department's major equipment purchases in the capital plan which could save the town $1 million and reduce the number of fire trucks in the department. “We're putting all our eggs in one basket,” Clarke told selectmen. He proposes to change the capital plan by eliminating the purchase of a $600,000 fire engine in FY20 and a ladder truck replace...

Chatham Fincom Opines On Budget, COA, School Funding

By: Alan Pollock

CHATHAM — Speaking to selectmen and the town manager Monday, finance committee Chairman Stephen Daniel praised town staff for producing a “good budget” for fiscal 2020. But he said his group has cautionary words on the proposed new council on aging and on school spending. Daniel observed that the operating budget, as first proposed, grew only 1.77 percent, a laudable proposal at a time when many costs are in...

HARWICH — The selectmen and finance committee got an up-close look at the proposed Monomoy Regional School District budget Monday night. The school district is seeking a total of $40,901,482, with Harwich being asked to contribute $26,754,276, close to a 4.5 percent increase over the current year. With student enrollment down by 58 since FY16, a reflection of the overall decline in school-age children in the d...

Petition Seeks To Bury Pet Cemetery

By: William F. Galvin

HARWICH — The town has received a petitioned article for the annual town meeting warrant seeking to rescind an article approved in 2016 which authorized selectmen to transfer the 2.25 acres at 276 Queen Anne Rd. to the cemetery commission to develop a pet crematory and cemetery. “I love this town, this is not personal, I'm just against the waste of this land,” lead petitioner Tom Birch said on Tuesday. Birch w...

Ups and downs are often part of the ride when school officials formulate a budget, but the roller coaster took a turn last week that’s likely to upset some stomachs in Harwich. The FY20 Monomoy Regional School District spending plan got a boost of more than $400,000 thanks to an increase in state aid and the likelihood that health insurance costs will hold steady rather than increasing 10 percent as expected. ...

ORLEANS — The state will begin taxing short-term rentals of vacation homes, one or more rooms in houses, condos and the like beginning July 1. Town officials and business leaders are already thinking long-term about the uses of the new revenues. “Taxes will be collected by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Aug. 20, and then on the 20 th of the month from then on,” Selectmen Chairman Alan McClennen said Jan....

ORLEANS — The selectmen put the proposed Fiscal Year 2020 budget under a microscope Jan. 23 and also talked about rearranging the five-year capital plan. They discussed un-budgeted needs in light of some surprisingly good news: the Cape Cod Municipal Health Group is likely to vote this week for no increase in health and life insurance premium rates. “They had a great year last year, with claims running very ...

Local fire and rescue departments saw an escalation in calls last year, ranging from 13 percent in Chatham to 15 percent in Orleans and nearly 20 percent in Harwich. Most of the increases were in the number of emergency medical calls fielded by the departments. A major factor, officials say, is the area's aging population; last year's winter storms also contributed to the increase. “The storms certainly did...

Town May Charge Merchants For One-day Alcohol Permits

By: Alan Pollock

CHATHAM — In the summertime, restaurants and bars aren’t the only place in downtown Chatham where you can enjoy a little wine. Increasingly, you can stop for a libation at an art gallery or a clothing store. Having seen a big jump in the requests for special one-day alcoholic beverage permits issued to retailers and other non-foodservice businesses, selectmen are considering imposing a fee for that privil...

Governor Signs Chatham OPEB Legislation

By: The Cape Cod Chronicle

CHATHAM – In a step toward covering the town's $17 million other post-employment benefit liability, Gov. Charlie Baker last week signed legislation authorizing a property tax surcharge to help address the financial obligation. The legislation allows the town to levy a 1.5 percent surcharge on property tax bills beginning in 2020, when the current 3 percent Cape Cod Land Bank excise tax ends. The new surcharge ...

Harwich Gets Guidance On New Short-Term Rental Tax

By: William F. Galvin

HARWICH — With the new short-term rental tax taking effect this spring, town counsel John Giorgio has laid out options the town might want to exercise that could generate additional revenues for the community. He also addressed a section of the new law relating to a water protection fund and creation of local regulations. Giorgio made it clear that there was not a lot of time remaining before the closure of th...

HARWICH — Even by reducing staff by the equivalent of eight-and-a-half full-time employees, Monomoy school officials expect a shortfall of more than a half-million dollars to meet Harwich and Chatham spending expectations for fiscal 2020. Though they are still awaiting final figures, the Monomoy Regional School Committee heard Thursday that the district may need to eliminate the equivalent of eight-and-a-hal...

Even before it's finalized, the fiscal 2020 Monomoy Regional School District budget is projected to run a deficit of nearly $1 million. Superintendent of Schools Scott Carpenter told the school committee last week that the preliminary budget is up 5.25 percent over this year's $39 million spending plan, but because of several factors, the assessments to Chatham and Harwich will increase by 6.09 percent. The in...