Topics: Municipal Finance

Powers’ Budget Message Is Level Spending

By: William F. Galvin

HARWICH - The town's generation of revenues for fiscal 2022 is on track, Town Administrator Joseph Powers told selectmen, but because of several budgetary "headwinds," he is recommending that salaries and wages and departmental operating expenses be held at current levels for the coming year. Powers issued a financial assessment of the town to selectmen on Nov. 22 to help the board establish a general policy s...

CHATHAM – A half dozen years ago, the finance committee, in a report to the select board, rejected raising the local share of the room occupancy tax from 4 to 6 percent, reasoning that a higher tax here could drive visitors to other Cape towns that have a lower rate. Since then, almost every town on the Cape, including Harwich at last month's special town meeting, has adopted the higher rate. Several members o...

HARWICH – Since 2018, town meeting approved more than $1 million in Community Preservation Act funds for the affordable housing trust, yet the community preservation committee has no record of how the money was spent. The absence of an accounting of expenditures came to light Nov. 2 when Town Administrator Joseph Powers made presentations to the community preservation committee (CPC) on applications filed by t...

CHATHAM – Officials say the town is in good enough financial condition heading into the fiscal 2023 budget process that it can pivot away from a COVID-centric financial plan for a “resilient and sustainable future.” In fact, the town is sitting on a huge pot of money. Because revenue estimates were low-balled during the pandemic but ended up strong, as well as higher-than-anticipated turn-backs from town depar...

CHATHAM – It took just 19 minutes for voters to approve $5.9 million in water system improvements at Sunday's special town meeting. The upgrades will complete construction of two new wells and begin the process of treating two other wells recently shut down due to PFAS contamination. Officials say the expenditures are necessary to ensure that the system can meet peak water demand. The measures passed unanim...

ORLEANS - As town assessor, Brad Hinote is in regular conversation with buyers, sellers, real estate agents and other assessors from across the Cape. When it comes to the local real estate market over the past 18 months, the response from everyone he’s talked to has been consistent. “We’ve never seen anything like it.” The ongoing real estate boom has turned the local housing market on its ear, and Hinote p...

ORLEANS — The select board on Sept. 22 gave their approval to rate and fee increases for the town’s water and recreation departments, including a 4 percent water rate increase. Under the new water rates, which will go into effect Oct. 1, users will be issued a basic service charge of $54 per quarter, up from the current basic quarterly rate of $52. Assistant Water Superintendent Susan Brown said that apart ...

Chatham, Harwich Agree To Change Wastewater Pact

By: Alan Pollock

CHATHAM — The town of Chatham is seeking to give Harwich an easier payment plan for its use of the shared wastewater treatment plant and has opted against charging its neighbor a penalty for that accommodation. The intermunicipal agreement that governs the two towns’ sewer connection is being amended, in part to change the schedule of payments from Harwich to Chatham for the use of the latter's wastewater trea...

To Address Elementary School Funding Disparity Voters will likely have to wait until the spring to consider a change to the Monomoy Regional School agreement designed to boost financial equity between Chatham and Harwich. But school officials say the fiscal impact of delaying the vote from a fall special town meeting to the May annual town meeting comes as no big surprise. On Monday, the Harwich board of se...

It Can Take Two Years To Catch Up CHATHAM – These days, trying to match real estate sales with the town's property assessments is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. They don't even come close to matching up. Because assessments lag a year or more behind sales figures, there's always a disparity between the two. But in today's red-hot real estate market, that difference has grown wide enough to drive a ...

HARWICH — The hotel/motel and short- term rental tax may be heading for an increase from 4 to 6 percent. The selectmen have instructed Town Administrator Joseph Powers to draft an article reflecting the increase for the next town meeting. Last week, the board discussed the local option tax as it applied to short-term rentals. Powers informed selectmen that an increase would also apply to hotels and motels as w...

ORLEANS — England and America have been called “two countries divided by a common language.” One might say Chatham and Orleans are two towns divided by a common beach. Geography has made Orleans the gatekeeper for Chatham’s North Beach, aka the southern reach of Nauset Beach, and that has led to disagreements over administration and finances. Each town sells resident oversand vehicle stickers to its own citi...

Selectmen Back Regional School Budget

By: William F. Galvin

Discussions Continue On Elementary School Costs HARWICH — After selectmen threatened several times to reject the Monomoy Regional School District FY22 budget, the board voted 4-0 last week to support the $41,561,134 package. The school budget is up $300,000 over the present year, a 0.73 percent increase. However, Harwich’s share is $27,361,049, a $541,002 increase, or 2.02 percent. Chatham's contribution of...

ORLEANS — The heavy cruiser FY 22 General Operating Budget is being readied for final review by town meeting in May. This year, it will be accompanied by five smaller vessels, a flotilla of enterprise funds with their own budgets running mostly on user fees. That change, intended to reveal more transparently the actual cost of services such as the transfer station and the beaches, is part of a draft warrant of...

Select Board: Time Is Now For New Senior Center

By: Alan Pollock

CHATHAM — Some have argued that a pandemic is the wrong time for the town to take on a big-ticket capital project like building a new senior center. On Tuesday, the town's project team and the select board argued that, in fact, the timing couldn’t be better. The board voted unanimously to bring a request for $8,395,555 to build a new council on aging on a parcel of donated land at 1610 Main St., West C...

HARWICH — Selectmen were pleased to learn that the Monomoy Regional School District reduced its proposed fiscal 2022 spending plan by approximately $300,000, but board members are still not happy with the town’s share of the regional school district budget. Selectmen recently made it clear that they planned to vote against the school budget without some form of mitigation related to the growing disparity in th...