Topics: Municipal Finance

ORLEANS - Town meeting may be asked to add $12 million to the $47 million it authorized last year to complete the downtown sewer system and build a treatment plant and effluent disposal system. Five bids each were received for the sewer collection system and for the treatment plant and disposal system. Robert B. Our, of Harwich, was apparent low bidder for the sewer collection system and Daniel O'Connell's Son...

CHATHAM — Though it’s still too early to predict the exact financial impact of COVID-19 on the next town budget, officials are bracing for significant reductions and are finding new ways to trim spending and lighten the burden on taxpayers. Even so, the town's property tax rate will increase for the first time in three years. At last Thursday’s board meeting, selectmen reviewed the latest revision of the fi...

Selectmen Seek State Approval To Deficit Spend

By: William F. Galvin

HARWICH — Selectmen Tuesday afternoon voted to send a formal request to the division of local services in the state department of revenue to allow the town to deficit spend up to $250,000 due to the COVID-19 pandemic in FY2020. Because of the state of emergency declared by Gov. Charlie Baker on March 10, the town anticipates extraordinary expenses, according to the letter, which will be sent to Mary Jane Handy...

COVID-19 Prompts Deep Spending Cuts CHATHAM — Thanks to the pandemic, voters at the annual town meeting scheduled for June 22 will likely see some extreme social distancing, along with a warrant stripped down of big-ticket spending articles and a sobering town budget. Selectmen chose the new date for town meeting on Monday, but a provision is in place that allows the town moderator to postpone the session f...

ORLEANS — April is proving to be the cruelest month when it comes to town finances. Department heads were asked to reduce spending through June 30, the end of the fiscal year, to ensure a reserve of about half a million dollars to balance an anticipated drop in revenues from local receipts related to the effects of the pandemic. In a letter to finance committee chairman Lynn Bruneau, Finance Director Cathy ...

CHATHAM — Facing the possibility that all sorts of fee and tax revenue will be down because of the COVID-19 emergency, town officials are preparing an austere budget plan for fiscal 2021. Finance Director Alix Heilala told selectmen Monday that she and Town Manager Jill Goldsmith are making contingency plans in case available revenue declines to 75 percent or even half of the current year’s local receipts. ...

Chief: Pandemic Not Impacting Harwich Police Operations

By: William F. Galvin

HARWICH — While the police department is down a couple of members, the COVID-19 pandemic has not impacted the department's operation significantly, and Police Chief David Guillemette said he considers staffing stable. Guillemette was responding to concerns raised by Selectman Michael MacAskill about the impact a spending freeze instituted by the board might have on public safety. The spending freeze applies to...

HARWICH — A freeze on non-essential spending has been put in place by selectmen in an effort to keep town costs down given the unknown financial impact the COVID-19 pandemic may have on the community. Selectmen last week expressed concern that revenues could be lost if the pandemic keeps people away from the Cape this summer. Various taxes and fees, such as the meals and hotel taxes, would likely be lower than...

ORLEANS — While fire department personnel “have consistently provided the highest possible level of emergency services to the Orleans community,” according to a new study, the current staffing model “is neither sustainable nor efficient.” A staffing and organizational review by Emergency Services Consulting International recommends a reorganization to increase minimum staffing to four firefighters per shift, r...

CHATHAM – There is a level of “institutional stress” underlying next year's proposed town budget that may indicate it's time to step back, look at priorities and “take our foot off the gas,” according to a report from the finance committee. The fincom had a “qualitatively different response to the budget” this year rather than the usual quantitative approach, Chairman Stephen Daniel told selectmen last week. R...

Draft Budget Slashes Spending; Hiring Freeze In Place

By: Alan Pollock

HARWICH — Responding to clear direction from the board of selectmen, Interim Town Administrator Joseph Powers delivered an austere town budget proposal Monday that holds growth to less than half a percent in FY21. In presenting the draft spending plan, Powers announced that he has imposed a freeze on hiring for any new positions advertised after Feb. 6. Finalized just hours before this week’s board meeting, th...

Selectmen Want Movement On Bank Street Demolition

By: William F. Galvin

HARWICH — The former fire station on Bank Street could be demolished in the near future. Selectmen last week instructed Interim Town Administrator Joseph Powers to take the steps necessary to begin the process. Powers said Selectman Michael MacAskill requested moving ahead with the demolition plans and a site visit was held with Town Engineer Griffin Ryder and Harbormaster John Rendon. The building has not bee...

Budget Season Picks Up With News Of Tax Rate Cut

By: Ed Maroney

ORLEANS — The town’s projected budget for fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1, includes a 2.9 percent decrease in the tax rate and no property tax increase. On the other hand, the first look at operating expenses for the non-school budget shows a 4.7 increase, a bit over the board of selectmen’s 4 percent cap. But there could be good news there, too, if the Cape Cod Municipal Health Group sets coverage rates lo...

ORLEANS — “New occasions teach new duties,” James Russell Lowell wrote. That thought may be helpful as Nauset Regional School District taxpayers weigh a high school reconstruction project that will benefit not only the district’s children but also some from other Cape towns as well as adult learners from the system’s four communities. The Eastham high school’s student body is a mix of pupils from Brewster, Eas...

Goldsmith Proposes $32.7M Operating Budget

By: Alan Pollock

Selectmen: Focus More On Project Management CHATHAM — Town Manager Jill Goldsmith has proposed a $32,733,626 operating budget for fiscal 2021. Designed to keep the current level of services, the budget is up nearly 6 percent over the current year’s spending plan and includes the equivalent of five new full-time employees. Selectmen praised Goldsmith and Finance Director Alix Heilala for the budget, and se...

Under-65 Tax Credit Exemption Gets Selectmen's Support

By: William F. Galvin

HARWICH — The town has generous tax exemption programs for residents over 65 years of age, veterans, and people who are sight-impaired, but there is little in the way of programs to help younger families and residents who are facing financial hardship. Board of Assessors Chairman Richard Waystack raised the issue of establishing a hardship exemption tax credit for people under 65 years of age during a presenta...