Topics: Municipal Finance

CHATHAM – Between fiscal years 2018 and 2019, use of the town's online bill paying system increased by 60 percent. The figure is likely to increase with the introduction of a new system that allows people to pay more bills online with fewer fees. Beginning with the next round of water bills, scheduled to be issued in the next week or two, residents and property owners will be able to pay free of charge with el...

Selectmen Hold Off On Treasure Chest Sticker Fee

By: William F. Galvin

HARWICH — While selectmen have approved an increase in a couple of disposal area fees, the board balked at placing a $10 fee on stickers for the Treasure Chest, the town's swap shop. The board also agreed to hold the line on the price of residential disposal area permits for this year. The proposed $10 fee for the Treasure Chest sticker drew debate last week, but questions were raised about the nature of the f...

HARWICH — The town and Monomoy Regional School District received good news this week from bond rating firm S&P Global, which upgraded the town's credit rating to AAA. That could mean substantial costs savings on borrowing. The change is particularly welcome with the town embarking on a multi-million dollar sewer project in the coming years. “Having the AAA rating ensures that the town will enjoy low int...

CHATHAM – Voters spent some $60 million at the annual town meeting, and while the major expenditures received coverage last week, there were numerous smaller appropriations that didn't make the news but nonetheless deserve attention. There were also several articles that were not acted upon, including changes to the Monomoy Regional School district agreement. Although the changes mostly involved removing referen...

ORLEANS — In its annual report and letter to the town, the finance committee has some advice for voters: “(There's) a lot of stuff going on at once. Some might say too much. But there are good reasons for getting all this work done now.” In plainspoken language, the letter states that funding for the comprehensive water resources management plan “is still the elephant in the room, and the temptation is to sa...

HARWICH — Selectmen have made it clear in the FY20 budget process that the cost of capital projects, debt exclusion votes, and increases in the Monomoy Regional School District budget are not sustainable and steps need to be taken to curb spending. When Town Administrator Christopher Clark put forward his balanced budget earlier this month, he was proposing an increase in the room occupancy tax from 4 to 6 per...

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 ...