Selectmen Set Financial Leadership And Stability As FY21 Goals

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Municipal Finance

Budget and finance.

HARWICH — Financial leadership and stability, implementation of the comprehensive wastewater management plan and the creation of affordable and workforce housing were identified as priority goals for the coming year by the board of selectmen.

Selectmen approved five goals on Oct. 19, also including as priorities economic development and working with the interim town administrator, financial director and residents to develop an organizational and financial strategic plan to provide clear direction for administration.

The board’s goal for financial leadership and stability sets a budget cap of 2 percent above the FY21 appropriation. The conservative budget message is mindful of COVID-19 impacts likely to result in reduced revenues that affect town services.

“Keeping stability in mind, budgets may need to be adjusted throughout the year, as necessary,” the goals read.

There was limited discussion on the goals. Over the past few weeks, board members had a couple of opportunities to respond to the goals crafted for FY2021by Chairman Larry Ballantine.

The objectives in the goals emphasize a limited operation budget which manages debt payments as much as possible to maintain level debt service obligations. It recommends against the use of capital and debt exclusions to avoid the need for a general override, and to explore organizational structure, information technology and the use of county services to increase efficiency and reduce costs. The objectives also include expanding grant writing capabilities.

Developing specific financial strategies to maintain the Standard and Poor AAA bond rating is also a priority.

The comprehensive wastewater management plan was developed to meet regulatory obligations, and the board is committing to work with staff and its consultants to plan, design and manage the project with an eye on minimizing costs. CWMP phases will be timed so debt payments fall within the capital budget plan, according to the goals.

Another objective is the board’s intention to continue discussions with Dennis and Yarmouth on a potential regional wastewater partnership with specific input into governance and finances, focusing on the timing of such a partnership. The board also committed to ensuring that all wastewater issues are communicated to residents for their input and understanding.

Selectmen also pledged to work with the affordable housing trust to aggressively pursue the creation of affordable and workforce housing. That commitment includes engagement, education and communication with town residents and organizations on housing initiatives and programs to increase housing as specified in the housing production plan. To do that, the town will pursue potential parcels for affordable/workforce housing and emphasizing the use of private-public, or non-profit partnerships. The board agreed to promote an accessory use apartment bylaw zoning amendment to assist property owners with a supplemental income to age-in-place in their homes or to offer additional workforce housing options.

In its economic development goal, selectmen agreed to work closely with the chamber of commerce to promote the town and the needs of local businesses. One objective is to encourage simplification, transparency and rapid response of regulatory boards and permitting to encourage business and resident non-business interests. The board also committed to working with businesses and neighbors to find the best compromises to minimize noise concerns.