Brewster Officials: Finances In Good Shape

by Rich Eldred

BREWSTER – The bad news is that Brewster expects to spend $57.9 million in fiscal 2025, but the good news is the town should collect $58.1 million in revenue. While Brewster isn’t as profitable an enterprise as Microsoft or Tesla, there won’t be a need for an override next year.

This all assumes the schools stay limited to a 3 percent increase as Brewster officials will request. This year Brewster passed a $316,878 override to fund the elementary school budget after a 5.5 percent operating increase. The Nauset regional assessment also required a $648,000 override as their operating expenses rose 7.7 percent. Cape Tech’s assessment should be up 2.5 percent.

“The operating budget targets 3 percent increases for the schools,” Town Manager Peter Lombardi said. “Any more than that will need an override.”

But town expenses are under control, Lombardi and Finance Director Mimi Bernardo told a joint meeting of the select board and finance committee Monday night.

“Our revenue estimates are conservative,” Bernardo said.

Brewster is now level funding its OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits) fund with $300,000 a year, mostly from free cash.

The town expects $1 million or so in short-term rental tax receipts, and 85 percent of that is now earmarked: 50 percent to the affordable housing trust, 25 percent to the capital stabilization fund and 15 percent to the new water quality stabilization fund. That new fund is currently covering some water studies.

Most town employees will be getting a 2.5 percent cost of living increase.

The solar carport at Captains Course is bringing in $90,000, with $70,000 of that going back to the golf enterprise fund. The remaining $20,000 will pay Brewster’s share of an energy manager that will be shared among several towns.

Revenues from the newly opened retail marijuana shop and growing facility will be rolling in next year, but can’t yet be included in the budget as they opened in July and September and a full year is needed before the revenue can be worked into the operating budget.

“We expect $150,000 by FY26,” Bernardo said, “and $50,000 more in the following years.”

Brewster’s total operating budget will be $40.4 million next year and $45.7 million by FY28.

“Our projection is a 3 percent increase in general expenses,” Lombardi said.

Utility cost increases are putting pressure on the budget. Pension costs are expected to rise 11 percent next year, health insurance will be up 4 percent.

Brewster has been paying off the bonds for the Sea Camps for two years already and owes $981,123 for FY25.

Nearly half of Nauset High’s students are from Brewster, so the assessment for the renovation was $2.1 million for half of fiscal 2024 and will be $1.9 million for the first half of fiscal 2025; over the course of that year it will total $4 million. For a median price home in Brewster ($700,000) that adds up to $450 to $500 in additional property taxes. The bonds are for 25, so there are decades to go.

Brewster’s share of the 20-year bonds for the $81 million construction of Cape Tech is $441,653 in fiscal 2025.

Bernardo estimates the fiscal 2025 revenues at $58,109,021 and expenses at $57,894,369. So the extra levy capacity will be $214,652.

“We feel the town is in a good position,” Lombardi said.

Excess levy capacity was likely to shrink in the ensuing years and by fiscal 2027, Brewster might be operating at a deficit, but only by $50,000, he said. Predicting a few years out is difficult, however, with inflation, local economics, unexpected expenses and other changes. He will also ask town departments to keep their requests low and the departments will get their budgets in by January. Recommendations will be finalized in February.

“Capital budgeting is underway,” Lombardi said. “The goal is to bring in requests at $2 million.”

Funding for capital requests will come from free cash, currently at $1.7 million. This spring Lombardi expects $700,000 to $800,000 in requests, which would leave free cash at $1 million going into the summer.