5.46 Percent Increase Proposed For Harwich Budget

by William F. Galvin
Town Administrator Joseph Powers has put forward his fiscal 2025 budget. FILE PHOTO Town Administrator Joseph Powers has put forward his fiscal 2025 budget. FILE PHOTO

HARWICH – Education and fixed costs are the major contributors to the 5.46 percent increase in the fiscal 2025 budget Town Administrator Joseph Power presented to the select board last week.

“The budget message for fiscal 2025 is one of caution and deliberate action,” Powers said. “Expenses are not contained to the original directive of 1.5 percent growth due to contractual obligations, high utility costs and other fixed costs.”

Educational assessments are also having a major impact. Powers said the town’s Monomoy Regional School District assessment is up 6.76 percent to $30,393,653 and the Cape Cod Regional Technical High School budget is up 9.46 percent to $2,204,820. Both projections are preliminary and subject to change, he noted. The MRSD administration is scheduled to make a budget presentation to the select board on Feb. 26.

As of now. Powers said, there are still key metrics that are not finalized. As these numbers come into focus, the town should proceed cautiously into the annual town meeting with an eye toward a potential fall special town meeting to enhance budgets, if funds allow, he said.

Town revenues are solid, but not robust, Powers said. He estimated a 3.53 percent growth in estimated revenues over the previous year with the levy limit showing a 2.29 percent increase. Other revenue resources are expected to grow by 7.60 percent, he added.

The key drivers in revenue growth are a 5.96 percent increase in local aid; a 5.71 percent increase in local receipts; and a 48.40 percent increase in interfund transfers. Those revenues would be derived from available article balances and other sources, according to Powers.

On the expense side, Powers projected a 5.46 percent increase, or $4,092,631, in total estimated expenses over the previous year. Growth in departmental operating budgets is 2.69 percent.

The increases are being driven by a 23.49 percent increase in debt service payments; a 10 percent increase in group health insurance; a 4.5 percent increase in property and liability insurance; a 4.27 percent increase in state assessments; and the increases in school districts assessments. Several of the expense categories are expected to change as the numbers are finalized, Powers said.

Powers’ proposed budget does not include any staff for enhancement of services requested by town departments. Seven departments had made requests for additional funding for staffing and to address overtime issues.

The treasurer’s department was seeking $53,000 for additional staff; administration requested $115,000 for step increases and a human resources director; the fire department sought $149,892 in additional overtime to increase shift strength; the DPW was looking for $59,212 for a cemetery craftsperson; the cemetery administration requested $25,385 for a part-time clerical position; youth and family services sought $69,457 for a clinician; and the recreation and youth department requested $68,775 for additional staff. An additional $126,502 was sought by departments for enhancement services but was also not included in the budget.

“The expenses included in my recommended operating budget allow us to continue to provide the exceptional level of service, programming and care that our residents, taxpayers and voters expect every year,” Powers said.

Powers said he will submit a memo to the select board with his service enhancement recommendations.

“They will be influenced by numbers showing up in the next couple of weeks in revenues,” he said.

On Monday, Feb. 26 the select board is scheduled to send the budget to the finance committee for review. On Saturday, March 2 the select board and finance committee will meet jointly to discuss the proposed budget and vet the enhancement of services requested.