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2022 Annual Town Meeting: Warrant in Plain English

At Town Meeting Saturday, May 14, voters will be asked to approve 32 articles put forward by the Select Board and other town committees. The meeting is the first of two sessions, its agenda devoted primarily to financial matters. A second session will be convened in the fall to consider changes to the town’s bylaws and pressing financial decisions that can’t wait until the following spring.

Then at Town Election Tuesday, May 17, voters will decide one ballot question: whether to amend the Harvard Charter to set the start of terms for newly elected School Board members to the first day of July following their election. Town meeting approved the amendment last fall and so has the attorney general. This vote is the final step required to amend the charter.

Also on the ballot are the names of candidates nominated to fill the positions of town moderator (one position for one year), Select Board (two positions for three years ), School Committee (one position for three years), Harvard Public Library trustee (two positions for three years), and Warner Free Lecture trustee (two positions for three years). The elections are uncontested.

On the following pages we explain each warrant article in everyday language, highlighting the amount of money involved, its source, who oversees its use, whether the article affects your taxes, and—when less than obvious—the consequences of voting yes or no.

You’ll find additional detail in the Town Meeting booklet, which will be distributed to attendees on Saturday when they register and is available on the town website at www.harvard-ma.gov/home/news/annual-town-meeting-0. The booklet contains the town counsel-approved wording of each article, its cost, and whether it’s recommended by the Finance Committee. Readers should be aware, however, that the language of an article and sometimes its exact cost and source of funds can be altered when the motion for its adoption is read on the floor of Town Meeting. As long as they don’t expand the scope of an article, motions can also be amended, so you’ll need to pay attention.

For help with specialized terms such as “General Fund” or “levy,” see our “Glossary of municipal lingo.” Finally, for details on how to speak and legislate at Town Meeting, you might consult the handy guide “Town Meeting Conduct and Procedures” prepared by the League of Women Voters of Harvard. It was not included in this year’s warrant booklet, but you can find it at the League’s website lwvharvard.org/town-meeting-conduct-and-procedures.


Artcle 1  – Annual reports

Vote required: Majority

This article, an annual formality, asks voters to hear reports from the Select Board, School Committee, and any other boards that wish to present. A “yes” vote opens the door for any board or committee to step forward and tell the town of its activities and accomplishments over the past year.

The Harvard Charter requires the Select Board to provide an annual report on the state of the town, including progress made on goals set at its annual strategic planning meeting, The charter also calls for “a summary of the town’s financial position, economic development and capital projects, as well as any other items that will impact the town within the next several years.”

In addition to the Select Board, the recently formed Harvard Climate Initiative Committee is planning to report on its activities.

This article was requested and approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 2  – Approve new DPW collective bargaining agreement and funds to pay for fiscal years 2021 and 2022

Amount: $53,704
Vote required: Two-thirds

The town and the Department of Public Works union agreed on a new three-year contract earlier this year, but DPW workers have been without a contract for the past two fiscal years. The town must now vote to approve the new contract and to make up the pay DPW workers would have received during those two years had the new contract been in place. For most workers, the contract provides a 3% cost-of-living increase for 2021 and 2022, and an adjustment to the wage table that essentially provides that same amount this year, which is year three. The wages of truck drivers, the lowest paid workers, will increase by nearly $3 per hour. The total back pay owed to DPW workers comes to $53,704, and the money would come from the General Stabilization Fund.

Recommended by the Finance Committee; approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 3  – Approve new police officer collective bargaining agreement

Amount: Increase is reflected in the personnel line of the police budget
Vote required: Majority

The town and the Police Department recently agreed on a new three-year contract that will take effect July 1. The contract provides for a 3% cost-of-living increase. It also increases the pay incentives for officers to get additional work-related education and training.

Recommended by the Finance Committee; approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 4  – Transfer from certified free cash to the stabilization account

Amount: 24,662
Vote required: Majority

Harvard’s capital planning bylaw requires that whenever the balance of the town’s General Stabilization Fund, as of July 1, falls below 5% of the preceding year’s omnibus budget, free cash must be used to restore it. Finance Director Jared Mullane has calculated that a transfer of $24,662 from free cash is needed to reach this year’s required balance of $1.7 million.

This article was requested by the Finance Committee.

Recommended by the Finance Committee and approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 5  – Transfer from certified free cash to the Capital Stabilization and Investment Fund

Amount: $1,745,074
Vote required: Majority

The Capital Stabilization and Investment Fund is Harvard’s savings account for capital projects that cost less than $500,000. The fund gets its dollars from free cash: unspent and unrestricted money left over from the prior fiscal year. Harvard’s capital planning bylaw, passed in 2010, requires the Select Board to place an article before town meeting at the end of each fiscal year to transfer whatever remains of free cash to the capital fund. The current fiscal year is 2022; fiscal 2021 is the prior year.

Article 5 fulfills that bylaw requirement. If it passes, the finance director will transfer the balance of fiscal 2021 free cash to the Capital Stabilization and Investment Fund.

As of March 31, 2022, the balance of the capital fund was approximately $3.2 million. Passage of Article 4 will increase the CSIF balance to $4.9 million.

Although it’s the job of the Capital Planning and Investment Committee to review capital project requests and recommend which should be paid for with money in the capital fund, a two-thirds vote of Town Meeting is required to authorize such expenditures. Paying for capital projects with capital savings reduces the amount the town has to borrow, which helps restrain the growth of property taxes. Some have complained that it’s easier to deposit money in the fund than it is to withdraw it; others see that as a virtue.

This article was requested by the Finance Committee, which recommends its passage. The Select Board approved it.


Artcle 6  – Fiscal 2023 omnibus budgets

Amount: $31,586,509
Vote required: Majority

The town’s omnibus budget is often approved in a matter of minutes, sometimes without a single question or comment. But it’s arguably the main event of Town Meeting, when voters decide how their tax dollars and other town money will be spent to deliver vital municipal services in the coming fiscal year, from classrooms and snowplows to roads and buildings, from police officers and teachers to librarians and senior outreach workers.

The omnibus budget lays out in some detail the spending that the Select Board proposes for each town department and committee. Details are spelled out on pages 36 to 40 of the Town Meeting booklet. (See also our discussion of Article 6.)

The Select Board and Finance Committee, with the advice of Town Hall administrators, set guidelines for the coming fiscal year’s budget each fall. Department and committee heads then prepare their requests, which are scrutinized by the Finance Committee in January and February, who then deliver a recommendation to the Select Board. The amount that can be spent in any given year is constrained by the income the town can raise from taxes and other sources.

The grand total of the fiscal 2023 omnibus budget is $31,586,509, 4.2% higher than the amount appropriated for fiscal 2022, which ends June 30. Driving the increase are new labor contracts and cost of living increases for town employees, new or expanded town and school jobs, and additional debt. But fiscal 2023 expenditures are balanced by expected revenues and offsets from other sources, leaving a $10,267 surplus.

Heads of departments and committees were instructed this year to ask for enough money in fiscal 2023 to sustain current levels of service, but also to support some growth in staff, services, and equipment to meet needs deferred during the pandemic—or, in the case of the schools, needs that arose because of the pandemic. Most of these increases can be found in the omnibus budget; but one-time purchases are more likely to be among the small warrant articles, capital requests, and community preservation grants described later in this report.

The omnibus budget is recommended by the Finance Committee and approved by the Select Board, which has ultimate responsibility for presenting a budget to Town Meeting.

If the article passes, the money will be expended by department heads and committee chairs, with the approval of the Select Board and town administrator, and paid for with fiscal 2023 tax dollars and other town revenues. If it fails, the Select Board must return to Town Meeting before July with an alternative proposal, or ask the state for authority to continue operating at a monthly rate one-twelfth that of the current year’s budget.


Artcle 7  – Performance-based wage adjustments

Amount: $27,004
Vote required: Majority

In 2018, the town switched from a step-and-grade pay scale to a merit pay system for nonschool employees. But the omnibus budget covers only cost-of-living increases for those employees. So the Personnel Board recommends this amount as a pool of money to provide merit raises for the 33 town employees who are not covered by union or individual contracts. These employees work for the library, Town Hall, Council on Aging, and HCTV. If the article passes, each department head will be able to allot merit raises to employees who met or exceeded performance goals in the past year.

This expenditure was requested by the Personnel Board and would be paid for with fiscal 2023 tax dollars.

Recommended by the Finance Committee; approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 8  – Assistant director of the Council on Aging

Amount: $28,357
Vote required: Majority

The Council on Aging is requesting an expansion of its 19-hour administrative assistant position to a 40-hour assistant director position. Currently, the director is the only full-time COA employee, and there is no succession or emergency plan to guarantee continuity of senior services. The assistant director would continue with the administrative assistant responsibilities, which include handling dispatch of the COA’s two vans and working with Harvard Help. Additional responsibilities would include overseeing the meal programs, and handling state and federal reporting requirements for regional transportation. The salary increase, including benefits, would be about $35,000, but because the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority reimburses the town for the dispatch portion of the job, only $28,357 is needed.

If this article is approved, the money will be spent in fiscal 2023 by the finance director, and the position will be included in future budgets.

Recommended by the Finance Committee; approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 9  – Administrative assistant to the land use boards

Amount: $39,807
Vote required: Majority

The current conservation agent’s title is “land use administrator/conservation agent,” but increasing demands on the conservation agent leave insufficient time for the agent to perform both conservation agent work and administrative tasks for the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals. This article would fund a new full-time position for an administrative assistant for the land use boards. Responsibilities would include supporting the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Building Department (relieving some of the executive assistant to the town administrator’s workload). The new administrative assistant would also provide additional support to the Board of Health and Conservation Commission as needed.

If this article is approved, the money will be spent in fiscal 2023 by the finance director, and the position will be included in future budgets.

Recommended by the Finance Committee; approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 10  – Assistant accountant

Amount: $43,390
Vote required: Majority

The finance director requested this position to deal with a backlog of accounting work. In 2017 the town replaced the accounting officer position with a new position that combined the roles of assistant town clerk and accounting clerk. Data input and processing accounts payable currently take up 50% of that person’s time, leaving no time for additional accounting tasks that used to be performed. If this article passes, several positions would be reorganized to cover the additional accounting work needed. The result would be an increase of one part-time position to a full-time position, along with a level upgrade to take into account the new skills, knowledge, and responsibilities that will be required for that position. The $43,390 requested would pay for the salary and benefits of the upgraded full-time position.

If this article is approved, the money will be spent in fiscal 2023 by the finance director and the position will be included in future budgets.

Recommended by the Finance Committee; approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 11  – DPW: Roadside tree maintenance

Amount: $20,000
Vote required: Majority

Each year, the town contracts with a professional company to remove dead trees and trim trees and large brush along the town’s roadsides. Department of Public Works Director Tim Kilhart works with the tree warden to prioritize a list of trees that need removal. This year’s request is the same amount requested and approved at last year’s Town Meeting.

This expenditure was requested by the Department of Public Works. Funds would be expended by the Department of Public Works director, with the approval of the Select Board.

Recommended by the Finance Committee; approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 12  – DPW: Street signs

Amount: $15,000
Vote required: Majority

At last October’s Town Meeting, the town passed two articles related to speed limits. One was to allow the Select Board to set the speed limit in thickly settled areas and business districts in town. The other was a home-rule petition to lower the speed limit on specific roads in Harvard. This article would fund signs for both of those speed limit changes. The home-rule petition has not yet made it through the state Legislature, and it would require many new signs, with 34 roads in the list and some roads requiring multiple signs. The signs will be purchased if and when the home-rule petition is approved. The thickly settled signs could be purchased and installed at the start of the new fiscal year if the article passes.

If this article is approved, the money will be spent in fiscal 2023 by the director of public works.

Recommended by the Finance Committee; approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 13  – DPW: Security camera system

Amount: $14,700
Vote required: Majority

The DPW and the Transfer Station have no security cameras in place, and the area and its buildings must remain accessible to vendors as well as to other departments and organizations in town that store things there, such as the Lions Club, the harbormaster, and the Fire Department. This article would fund security cameras at various locations at the Transfer Station and the DPW to deter theft and vandalism.

If this article is approved, the money will be spent in fiscal 2023 by the director of public works.

Recommended by the Finance Committee; approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 14 – Police/Harvard Ambulance Service: Training room floor

Amount: $13,000
Vote required: Majority

If approved, this money will be used to replace the 20-year-old carpeting in the training room at the Public Safety Building. The new flooring will be a hard-surface material that can be mopped and sanitized

If this article is approved, the money will be spent in fiscal 2023 by the facilities manager in conjunction with the police chief and director of the Harvard Ambulance Service.

Recommended by the Finance Committee; approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 15 – Beach house compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act

Amount: $29,800
Vote required: Majority

This article requests $29,800 to renovate the beach house bathrooms into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to Parks and Recreation Chair Bob O’Shea, an entry step would need to be modified for accessibility. Additional renovations could improve some interior walls and modify the ramp and patio. “We rent an ADA-compliant portable restroom due to these limitations, but it is not appropriate to make disabled residents use inferior facilities in the long run,” said O’Shea.

If this article is approved, the money will be spent in fiscal 2023 by the facilities manager in conjunction with the Commission on Disabilities.

Recommended by the Finance Committee; approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 16 – Finance Department: Disposition of abandoned funds

Vote required: Majority

If Town Meeting adopts the section of Massachusetts General Law cited by this article (MGL Chapter 200A Section 9A), the town will have the authority to reclaim checks that remain uncashed after one year. The law spells out a process for returning the money to the town. Checks with values less than $100 can be reclaimed rather quickly; checks of greater value must be listed twice in a local newspaper and given an extended deadline of one year beyond the date of the second posting. Once the final deadline has passed, the amount can be recorded as town revenue.

Finance Director Jared Mullane told the Press that passage of this article would enable him to recover approximately $9,000 for the town in fiscal 2023.

Requested by the finance director. Recommended by the Finance Committee; approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 17 – Re-authorization of means-tested senior citizens property tax exemption

Amount: Cost to taxpayers of this exemption has averaged $31,700 per year since 2019
Vote required: Majority

The 2018 Town Meeting asked the state to grant a home-rule petition allowing Harvard to cap property taxes for means-tested residents 65 and older who had lived in town at least 10 years. The state granted the petition but amended the wording, so the exemption did not help as many people as originally intended, according to the measure’s longtime advocate, Select Board Chair Stu Sklar.

This article restores the original intent, which was to cap the property taxes of means-tested seniors at 10% of their yearly household income. However, no one’s tax bill may be reduced below 50% of the amount owed. The 2018 bill was limited to three years, but this revision does not have a time limit.

If this article is approved, the lost property tax revenue will be made up by a surcharge of not more than 1% on the bills of other taxpayers.

Approved by the Select Board; recommended by the Finance Committee.


Artcle 18 – Capital Planning and Investment Committee recommended expenditures

Amount: $1,916,722

Each year the Capital Planning and Investment Committee reviews requests from departments and committees for purchases of equipment or studies that cost more than $20,000 or that have a useful life greater than five years. Large projects, such as the new elementary school, are typically paid for with excluded debt, but small projects can be paid for with savings in the Capital Stabilization and Investment Fund.

The 14 projects listed below will be paid for with money in the capital fund, which had a balance of approximately $3.2 million in March. Passage of Article 5 would add $1.7 million in free cash to the account. If all 14 capital projects were to be approved, the capital fund would be left with a balance of approximately $3 million.

The Finance and Capital Planning and Investment committees and the Select Board recommend all 14 projects be funded in fiscal 2023. The projects are listed in order of their priority, as rated by the capital committee.


Artcle 18-1 – Bromfield HVAC

Amount: $150,000
Vote required: Two-thirds

In 2019 the schools began replacing the 30-plus roof air-handling units at Bromfield, all of which were at or near the end of their life expectancy. In each of the past two fiscal years, the schools have received $150,000 to replace two units. The School Committee has asked for the same amount this year to replace two units that serve 10 rooms at the school as well as the library and common area. The new units improve air exchange as well as adding chillers to make the building more comfortable in late spring and early fall. After this work, there will be 28 more units to replace.

This expenditure was requested by the superintendent of schools. If it passes, funds will be expended by the superintendent of schools with School Committee approval.


Artcle 18-2 – DPW road repairs

Amount: $100,000
Vote required: Two-thirds

The town receives about $350,000 each year in Chapter 90 highway funds from the state, but that amount is not enough to keep the roads in good repair. For the past few years, the DPW director has asked the town for $300,000 to supplement the Chapter 90 funds. Last year, funds were left over from a $1 million grant to repave Stow Road. Those funds allowed repairs to be done on other roads, so this year the director is asking only for an additional $100,000.

This expenditure was requested by the DPW director. If it passes, the money will be expended by the DPW director with the approval of the Select Board.


Artcle 18-3 – Restoration of fire ponds

Amount: $62,000
Vote required: Two-thirds

The Fire Department relies on fire ponds as a water source, but over the years the town’s 22 fire ponds fell into disrepair, with weed overgrowth, cracked and blocked pipes, and other damage. Last year the town received a quote for repairs on nine ponds, Chief Rick Sicard told the Press. Combining $100,000 approved in 2017 and $50,000 in 2021, Sicard hoped to have six of the nine ponds restored last summer. But the work requires approval from the Department of Environmental Protection, and that approval was delayed by the pandemic. If Town Meeting approves the $62,000 requested for fiscal 2023, the total will cover the restoration of all nine ponds as soon as DEP gives the go-ahead.

This expenditure was requested by the fire chief. If it passes, the money will be expended by the fire chief with the approval of the Select Board.


Artcle 18-4 – Self-contained breathing apparatus

Amount: $370,534
Vote required: Two-thirds

The oxygen tanks and other components of the Fire Department’s self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBAs) are 15 years old and at the end of their usable life. SCBAs provide breathable air in dangerous environments, and the units must meet guidelines established by the National Fire Protection Association. They must be resistant to heat and flame but still light enough not to impede a firefighter’s mobility. The funds in this article, if approved, will purchase 36 new SCBA units.

This expenditure was requested by the fire chief. If it passes, the money will be expended by the fire chief with the approval of the Select Board.


Artcle 18-5 – Bromfield School card access

Amount: $100,000
Vote required: Two-thirds

This is the second installment in a project to give the Bromfield School the same type of card-access security as the Hildreth Elementary School. Teachers would swipe cards for regular access. The system could be programmed to allow entry outside regular hours, such as for evening or weekend events. School officials or police would be alerted if any of Bromfield’s 25 outside doors were left unlocked or ajar.

This expenditure was requested by the superintendent of schools. If it passes, funds will be expended by the superintendent of schools with School Committee approval.


Artcle 18-6 – Bromfield School flooring

Amount: $100,000
Vote required: Two-thirds

The school facilities manager plans to replace sections of hallway flooring rather than continue to patch it, as the flooring is beyond its life expectancy. The new flooring would be a no-wax material to eliminate the need for regular stripping and re-waxing.

This expenditure was requested by the superintendent of schools. If it passes, funds will be expended by the superintendent of schools with School Committee approval.


Artcle 18-7 – School Department network upgrade

Amount: $150,000
Vote required: Two-thirds

The network upgrade includes the cost for new routers, switches, and firewall appliances, replacing ones that are nine years old. This new equipment for Bromfield will match what was recently installed at HES and will allow the district to have better network traffic management, resulting in improved overall connectivity and speed to the internet. The newer switches and firewall will increase the schools’ bandwidth capacity across the district as a whole.

This expenditure was requested by the superintendent of schools. If it passes, funds will be expended by the superintendent of schools with School Committee approval.


Artcle 18-8 – DPW bucket loader

Amount: $226,000
Vote required: Two-thirds

The town has two bucket loaders. The older is 22 years old and is requiring frequent repairs and maintenance to keep it running. While it is often only a backup, sometimes both bucket loaders are needed, especially in the winter when one might be out plowing while the other is back at the DPW loading sand and salt into trucks. This article would fund a new bucket loader to replace the old one, which would be traded in. The second bucket loader is a 2014 model, and it would become the backup piece of equipment, which would help to extend its life.

This expenditure was requested by the DPW director. If it passes, the money will be expended by the DPW director with the approval of the Select Board.


Artcle 18-9 – Bromfield School gym locker rooms

Amount: $150,000
Vote required: Two-thirds

Plans to redesign the locker rooms completely were put forward in earlier years, but no architectural firm showed interest in such a small project. So the school facilities director has proposed renovations that his own staff can do over the next two years, including new plumbing in the showers, new bathroom fixtures, and other improvements that don’t involve structural changes.

This expenditure was requested by the superintendent of schools. If it passes, funds will be expended by the superintendent of schools with School Committee approval.


Artcle 18-10 – DPW field mower

Amount: $26,000
Vote required: Two-thirds

The condition of the athletic fields in town has long been a source of concern, and the Parks and Recreation Commission identified a zero-turn bagging mower as a piece of equipment that would help the DPW complete its mowing tasks more quickly. A zero-turn mower can make turns very quickly, and the bagging feature prevents having to make multiple passes over a field to mulch the grass clippings. The town has several of these mowers, but one more would improve efficiency and would provide a backup in case a mower needs to be taken out of service for repair.

This expenditure was requested by the DPW director. If it passes, the money will be expended by the DPW director with the approval of the Select Board.


Artcle 18-11 – Disabilities Commission self-evaluation plan

Amount: $32,800
Vote required: Two-thirds

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires towns to create a self-evaluation and transition plan and survey to assess current conditions and recommend ways to enhance disabled people’s participation in recreation, government services, and everyday activities. A complete plan with clear recommendations could protect Harvard from potential litigation due to failure to comply with ADA regulations, according to the Disabilities Commission. The plan could also help the town better serve the needs of the disabled population, estimated in the 2020 census to be 4.5% of the population.

This expenditure was requested by the Disabilities Commission. If it passes, the money will be expended by the commission with the approval of the Select Board.


Artcle 18-12 – Bromfield School building study

Amount: $100,000
Vote required: Two-thirds

An additional capital request is for $100,000 for an overall evaluation of Bromfield’s long-term maintenance needs, with the goal of making the 1960s building last as long as possible. Having a complete plan can help large maintenance projects qualify for funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

This expenditure was requested by the superintendent of schools. If it passes, funds will be expended by the superintendent of schools with School Committee approval.


Artcle 18-13 – Athletic fields study and design

Amount: $50,000
Vote required: Two-thirds

The Parks and Recreation Commission is requesting $50,000 to begin the process of selecting the site and acquiring the land for a $4.5 million proposed athletic fields complex. After a parcel of land is identified, the funding would be used to do a preliminary study on the cost and full development of it. The project plan details two rectangular playing fields and facilities for parking, spectating, ticketing, concessions, and bathrooms. The Parks and Recreation Commission, School Committee, and Open Space Committee are collaborating on this project, which is expected to take five years to complete. The establishment of a new athletic fields complex could address capacity issues among Harvard’s playing fields.

This expenditure was requested by the Parks and Recreation Commission. If it passes, funds will be expended by the commission with the approval of the Select Board.


Artcle 18-14 – Portable speed limit signs

Amount: $30,000
Vote required: Two-thirds

The town currently has four electronic speed signs, two of which are permanently mounted. The other two are nominally portable, but each takes several people to move it, along with help from the Department of Public Works. If this measure passes, police will give those two old signs permanent locations as well. The two new signs can be towed and set up by just one officer. They will also provide statistical data so that police can deploy officers at specific locations and times to enforce speed laws.

This expenditure was requested by the police chief. If it passes, funds will be expended by the chief with the approval of the Select Board.


Artcle 19 – Capital Planning and Investment Committee debt payment

Amount: $269,388
Vote required: Two-thirds

The Capital Planning and Investment Committee assumed debt payments for money borrowed to purchase a fire truck and DPW equipment in fiscal 2011 and later for a $340,000 municipal water system upgrade. Principal and interest due on those two projects in fiscal 2022 is $69,388. In addition, the capital committee recommends contributing $200,000 from its fund to reduce the cost to taxpayers of the money borrowed to build the new elementary school.

This article was requested by the Finance Committee and the Capital Planning and Investment Committee. The money source would be the Capital Stabilization and Investment Fund.

Recommended by the Finance Committee and the Capital Planning and Investment Committee; approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 20 – Community Preservation Committee report

Vote required: Two-thirds

This article invites the Community Preservation Committee to report on the state of Harvard’s Community Preservation Fund and the grants it has approved for fiscal 2023. The report is typically delivered by the CPC chair, currently Didi Chadran. A copy of the report appears on pages 30-32 of the warrant booklet.

This article was requested by the Community Preservation Committee. If it passes, the chair of the CPC will present the report. The Finance Committee takes no position on this article; the Select Board supports it.


Artcle 21 – Community Preservation Committee

Vote required: Two-thirds

This article was requested by the Community Preservation Committee and lists the projects the committee has voted to fund in fiscal 2023. The money source for all of these projects is Harvard’s Community Preservation Fund. The fund is fueled by a 1.1% property tax surcharge with matching money from the state.

By law, the money a community collects in its community preservation fund must be used to preserve open space and historic sites, and create recreational facilities and affordable housing. At least 10% of the money the CPC receives in a given year must be spent or reserved for each of those uses.

At the start of fiscal 2022 the fund balance was $88,270. The committee anticipates it will receive $272,894 in surcharge collection this fiscal year and another $115,892 from the state, but the final fiscal 2022 amount won’t be known until July 1.

The Community Preservation Committee recommends that all 12 community projects listed below receive CPC grants in fiscal 2023. The Finance and Capital Planning and Investment committees do not comment on CPC articles. The Select Board voted unanimously to support the CPC’s recommendations.


Artcle 21-1 – Completion of town docks

Amount: $25,000
Vote required: Majority

The Parks and Recreation Commission wants to purchase the remaining floating docks necessary to complete the town docks. The request includes $10,000 to hire a contractor who specializes in docks and who will teach the commission an efficient way to install them; $1,500 for each of the seven remaining low docks; and $4,000 for a dock anchoring system. According to Parks and Recreation Chair Bob O’Shea, this project could benefit current and future boaters, people who use the docks for fishing, and volunteers who have to secure the docks each year.

This expenditure was requested by the Parks and Recreation Commission; the funds would be expended by the Parks and Recreation Commission.


Artcle 21-2 – Mooring and raft anchoring system

Amount: $30,000
Vote required: Majority

The Parks and Recreation Commission wants to implement a better anchoring system for boats after four mooring buoys broke in the past two years. This request includes $2,000 to develop a more efficient anchor retrieval system, $10,000 to hire a mooring professional to complete the work, and additional funds for mooring anchors and hardware. According to the commission, these improvements could benefit all town boaters, prevent future damage to boats, and reduce volunteer labor.

This grant was requested by the Parks and Recreation Commission; the funds would be expended by the Parks and Recreation Commission.


Artcle 21-3 – Capital improvements to Harvard Park and playground

Amount: $10,332
Vote required: Majority

The CPC agreed to request this amount for a new slide for the Harvard Park playground. The old slide had gaps that could have caught a drawstring from a jacket or sweatshirt. But a few months ago the Finance Committee considered this an emergency and funded the new slide, which was recently installed, with a Reserve Fund transfer. Since money for the slide is no longer needed, the Parks and Recreation Commission plans to make an amendment to this article on the Town Meeting floor to build an ADA-compliant walkway around the Harvard Park playground. This would provide access to the two swings the playground has for physically challenged children, solve a drainage issue, and contain the mulch the commission will soon be buying for the playground so it won’t spread out toward the fences. Commission Chair Bob O’Shea said $10,332 will probably not be enough to pay for the installation of the entire walkway, but the commission would bring in volunteer labor to complete the project if necessary.


Artcle 21-4 – Community Harvest Project agricultural preservation restriction

Amount: $100,000
Vote required: Majority

The 75-acre Prospect Hill Community Orchard is owned and operated by Community Harvest Project, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate and enlist volunteers to grow and harvest fresh fruits and vegetables for hunger relief. It seeks an Agricultural Preservation Restriction to keep the orchard in agricultural use permanently. The agreement would be with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, the town of Harvard, the Harvard Conservation Trust, and the Sudbury Valley Trustees, and it would be recorded as a permanent restriction in the deed. In exchange, Community Harvest Project would receive the difference between the value of the property as farmland and its unrestricted value. This difference has been appraised at $2.59 million. MDAR has committed just over $1.2 million. The town voted to contribute $300,000 to the restriction at a 2020 Town Meeting, and this article would contribute an additional $100,000. The Conservation Trust, the Sudbury Valley Trustees, and CHP are reaching out to private donors to raise additional funds. The funds would be used to support the annual operating expenses of the orchard (about $1.8 million), to provide cold storage to stretch fruit delivery time ($500,000), and to install sprinklers in the barn along with a water storage tank and pumping system ($200,000). The town shut down the use of the barn for community activities a few years ago because of a lack of sprinklers.

This expenditure was requested by the Harvard Open Space Committee; the funds would be expended by the Harvard Open Space Committee.


Artcle 21-5 – Still River Woods

Amount: $50,000
Vote required: Majority

The Open Space Committee wants $50,000 to protect the Still River Woods by purchasing a 23-acre parcel of open space with a conservation restriction. The woods border 200 acres of town conservation land and an additional 65 acres of protected land with a conservation restriction. In 2019, the town voted to approve $100,000 in CPA funds and $100,000 in capital expenditure to contribute to the purchase of this parcel. If the additional $50,000 is approved, this request could connect existing parcels of protected land, open corridors for wildlife, and provide additional trails for visitors.

This expenditure was requested by the Harvard Open Space Committee; the funds would be expended by the Harvard Open Space Committee.


Artcle 21-6 – Fire reports preservation

Amount: $11,495
Vote required: Majority

This grant will be used to preserve six fire call record volumes of the Harvard Fire Department that span the years 1964 to 1990. Two years ago the CPC granted the Fire Department $6,000, enough to pay for the preservation of approximately four logs.

The project was proposed by former Fire Chief Peter Warren in 2019 and aims to preserve 15 volumes at a cost of $24,718, according to the estimate provided at the time. The oldest volume, described as “a small red book,” contains records of calls made between 1918 and 1924. The most recent volume, a stenographer’s notebook, covers the years 2004-2005. The volumes are to be de-acidified and resewn, then scanned and photographed. The preservation of historical town documents such as these is required by state law.

This expenditure was requested by the Harvard Fire Department; the funds would be expended by the Harvard Fire Department. The Historical Commission supports this use of community preservation funds.


Artcle 21-7 – Shaker Herb House preservation

Amount: $11,495
Vote required: Majority

The Harvard Historical Commission would use this grant money to restore the exterior of the Shaker Herb House, a landmark of the Shaker Village Historic District and a significant piece of Harvard history. A report by commission member Manny Lindo, dated January 2021, indicates a number of things to be repaired or replaced. Obtaining the town grant for the exterior work would allow the commission to apply to the state for matching funds to complete the project by restoring and upgrading the interior of the house for a use such as a learning center, Scout campsite, or shop. Opponents of the grant say the herb house was stabilized 12 to 15 years ago and further preservation measures need more careful study than the current report provides. They argue the town should vote on a feasible use for the building before any interior work is done.

This expenditure was requested by the Harvard Historical Commission; the funds would be expended by the Harvard Historical Commission.


Artcle 21-8 – Civil War tablet restoration

Amount: $11,774.50
Vote required: Majority

The Select Board requests funding to restore the two Civil War marble tablets that currently flank the doorway to upper Town Hall. The panels originally hung on either side of the 1886 town library entrance, were removed to the library’s lower floor in the early 1980s, and recently placed in Town Hall. The grant would pay for re-gilding to improve the legibility of the 136 veterans’ names and the legend. The two tablets would be framed in wood to more suitably display this record of Harvard’s historical heritage. The town’s public buildings maintenance fund covers only routine upkeep of buildings.

This expenditure was requested by the Select Board; the funds would be expended by the Select Board.


Artcle 21-9 – Preservation of historical town documents

Amount: $21,480
Vote required: Majority

Money provided by this grant will pay for the restoration and preservation of historical Harvard documents, a project that has been underway for a number of years, restoring records that cannot be digitized or replaced. So far, the project has preserved 120 volumes. This year’s grant will pay for the preservation of 12 more, including Town Meeting warrants from the 1800s and burial records from as early as 1734, two years after Harvard’s founding. The preservation of historic town records is required by state law.

This expenditure was requested by the town clerk; the funds would be expended by the town clerk. The Historical Commission has endorsed this request.


Artcle 21-10 – Affordable housing reserves

Amount: $38,879
Vote required: Majority

This expenditure is mandated by the Community Preservation Act: Towns that adopted the law must grant at least 10% of their available community preservation funds in any given year to an entity that creates affordable homes. In Harvard, that’s the Municipal Affordable Housing Trust.

As in recent years, the trust asked that its fiscal 2022 allotment be transferred to its reserve fund. Finance Director Jared Mullane told the Press this week that the fund’s balance as of March 31 was $412,178. That money can be drawn on by MAHT to subsidize projects that increase the amount of affordable housing in town. MAHT has an outstanding agreement to pay the developer of Emerson Green at Devens $140,000 upon completion of a 46-unit apartment building planned for the neighborhood. The payment will subsidize 10 of those units to ensure they are offered at affordable rental rates, a move that by a quirk of state law will count all 46 units towards Harvard’s total affordable housing stock.

The grant was requested by Harvard’s Municipal Affordable Housing Trust, which has authority to spend money in its reserves.


Artcle 21-11 – Debt payment on Town Hall

Amount: $46,988
Vote required: Majority

The Community Preservation Committee voted in 2012 to pay the annual principal and interest due on $1 million of the $3.7 million 20-year bond issued by the town that year to pay for the renovation of Town Hall. This year’s payment is $46,988.

This expenditure was requested by the Finance Department. If it passes, the funds will be expended by the finance director.


Artcle 21-12 – Community Preservation Committee administrative expenses

Amount: $2,500
Vote required: Majority

The Community Preservation Committee requires a small amount of money for administrative expenses, including Community Preservation Coalition dues and necessary legal fees.

This expenditure was requested by the Community Preservation Committee. If it passes, the funds will be expended by the committee.


Artcle 22 – Lease of land for installation of cell tower to improve public safety

Vote required: Majority

Last year the town hired a communications technology company to study wireless cellphone coverage in town. The results showed poor coverage in several areas, which the Select Board considers a safety issue. One of the company’s recommendations was to install a new cell tower on town-owned land just to the west of Hildreth House. That location would improve coverage in a 1.1-mile radius around town center, the eastern portion of Still River Road, and the eastern and western sides of Bare Hill Pond. A crane test was done in January to determine the visual impact of the tower. The test showed that the tower would be visible in most of town center, but not much beyond that. However, opponents are concerned that a cell tower in this location would negatively impact the historical look of the Common. If this article passes, the town would issue an RFP to wireless carriers. The installation would not cost the town anything, and the leased land would provide income to the town.

Recommended by the Finance Committee; approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 23 – Leasing of Harvard Council on Aging roof for solar power

Vote required: Two-thirds

This article would allow the town to lease the roof of the new Council on Aging building at 16 Lancaster County Road to a solar company. Installing the panels would cost the town nothing, and the lease would provide income to the town. The building will soon be undergoing renovations to convert it from medical offices to a senior center. The roof is not being replaced, and the building inspector told the Permanent Building Committee that he believes the roof is structurally sound enough to carry the weight of solar panels. The committee chose not to hire an engineer to make that determination, since solar companies do that analysis as part of the installation. The building inspector also said the Council on Aging would not have to vacate the building during solar panel installation.

Recommended by the Finance Committee; approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 24 – Fiscal 2023 enterprise fund budgets

Sewer Enterprise Fund: $172,195; Ambulance Enterprise Fund: $255,175
Vote required: Majority

This article sets the budgets of two enterprise funds: the Town Sewer Enterprise Fund and the Ambulance Enterprise Fund, created last year at Town Meeting. Each budget is an estimate of the amount each fund will spend in the coming fiscal year.

The town collects usage and connection fees from users of the town center sewer system. That money gets added to the enterprise fund to pay for maintenance and repairs as well as debt service on the system. Unspent money from prior years must be moved into the enterprise fund for the current fiscal year, where it is used to cover system expenses. The budget for fiscal 2023 is $172,195, 20% lower than the $217,070 budgeted for this fiscal year. Finance Director Mullane told the Press the lower amount would increase the amount of money held in reserve to cover future unforeseen expenses.

A similar arrangement exists for the Ambulance Enterprise Fund, which bills health insurance companies and MassHealth for its calls. This income is used to pay ambulance service expenses. Next year’s budget is $255,175, a 4% increase over fiscal 2022. Some of that money will be used to pay the salary of a full-time firefighter and EMT. In previous years, the ambulance service and Fire Department have split the cost.

This article was requested by the finance director, is recommended by the Finance Committee, and is supported by the Select Board. The activities of this fund have no impact on taxes.


Artcle 25 – Hildreth Elementary School (HES) electric vehicle charging station revolving fund

Vote required: Majority

Passage of this article would create a new revolving fund. People who use the charging station at the elementary school would pay for the electricity with a credit card. The income would be deposited in the revolving fund and used to offset electricity costs incurred by the town.

The Finance Committee recommends passage of this article; the Select Board approved it.


Artcle 26 – Revolving funds

Vote required: Majority

This article re-authorizes the following revolving funds and, for each, sets a not-to-exceed dollar limit for fiscal 2023.

  • Council on Aging $35,000
  • Fourth of July Committee $40,000
  • Fire Department S.A.F.E. Program $15,000
  • Application review advertising and professional service cost $1,000
  • Harvard Community Cable Access Committee $25,000
  • Parks and Recreation beach $120,000
  • Parks and Recreation field maintenance $65,000
  • HES electric vehicle charging station: $20,000

No money is appropriated by this article, but it does provide necessary authorization for owners of the accounts to collect and disburse funds through them.

This article was requested by the Finance Committee. FinCom recommends its passage and the Select Board approved it.


Artcle 27 – Amend Harvard Charter: Moderator term

Vote required: Two-thirds

Approval of this article would begin the process of amending the Town Charter to change the moderator’s term from one year to three years. If Town Meeting agrees, the change would be submitted to the state for approval. Then, if the state approves, the measure would be put to the voters in the 2023 Town Election. Moderator Bill Barton, who requested the change, said the position has not been contested on the ballot in many years, so it seemed more convenient to make the moderator’s term consistent with those of other elected town officials. This change would not affect any of the moderator’s duties.

The town moderator recommended this change to the charter and the Select Board approved it.


Artcle 28 – Historical Commission: Harvard Shaker Herb House historic preservation restriction

Vote required: Two-thirds

In Article 21-7 the Historical Commission is requesting $58,500 for exterior work on the Shaker Herb House. That CPC grant is necessary for the commision to request a preservation grant from the state, which would be used for interior repair and upgrade of the herb house. That state preservation grant cannot be given unless the building has a historic preservation restriction from the Commonwealth. The State Historical Grant program has been in existence for 20 years.

Requested by the Historical Commission. Approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 29 – Conservation Commission: Extension of invasive plant management

Amount: None
Vote required: Two-thirds

In 2018 Town Meeting approved $26,000 from the Community Preservation Committee to control invasive plants such as barberry and bittersweet on conservation land. But in some recent years, severe weather and equipment problems interrupted the work season for this project. This article asks that the expiration date for spending the remaining money in the fund (about $19,000) be extended from June 30, 2022, to June 30, 2025.

Finance Committee recommends passage of this article. The Select Board approved it.


Artcle 30 – Citizen petition: Indigenous Peoples Day

Vote required: Majority

This is a nonbinding vote to rename “Columbus Day,” the second Monday in October, to “Indigenous Peoples Day.” The League of Women Voters of Harvard has proposed changing the day’s name on all documents used by the town, including holiday schedules for personnel use. “Now we hope to honor the native peoples on this land and to align the names of holidays with those used by our school system,” said Stephanie Opalka, one of the league’s directors.

In 2019, the Harvard School Committee voted unanimously to implement this change across its calendars. Fourteen states currently recognize Indigenous Peoples Day, and over 20 localities across Massachusetts have made this change, including Amherst, Cambridge, Falmouth, Salem, and Wellesley. A bill is pending in the Massachusetts State Legislature that would establish a statewide Indigenous Peoples Day.

If this vote passes, the Select Board would need to have a future vote to rename “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples Day”.

Requested by citizen petition and approved by the Select Board.


Artcle 31 – Acceptance of gifts of property

Vote required: Majority

There are no gifts of property this year. The Finance Committee, however, encourages residents to consider a tax-deductible donation of land to the town and thanks those who have donated in the past.

This article is included every year at the request of the Select Board.


Artcle 32 – Acceptance of highway funds

Amount: $351,357
Vote required: Majority

This vote is required by state law to accept Chapter 90 funds that the state Department of Transportation provides each year for the repair and improvement of the town’s roads. If existing state formulas for apportioning highway money remain unchanged in fiscal 2023, the Department of Transportation estimates Harvard’s apportionment will be $351,357, about $1,000 more than the amount received this fiscal year. That formula includes the population and roads at Devens, neither of which are Harvard’s responsibility.

By defraying some of the cost of maintaining Harvard’s roads, Chapter 90 funds reduce the amount of money DPW must ask the town to provide. But the state money is never enough, which is why this year’s budget includes a $100,000 DPW capital request for the upkeep of Harvard roads.

This article was added by the Select Board. If it passes, the money will be expended by the DPW director with Select Board approval. Unexpended funds will go into the town’s General Fund.

The Finance Committee recommends and the Select Board approved passage of this article.


Town Election

Question 1: Ament Charter–Move term start date of School Committee members to July 1

Two-thirds of the voters at last October’s Town Meeting approved this proposed amendment to the Harvard Town Charter, and the state also approved the change. To take effect, the measure also needs a majority vote at this May’s Town Election. New School Committee members now take office right after the election, in the last weeks of the school year. The School Committee wants members’ terms to be more in sync with the school calendar. Moving the start date for new members to July 1 would allow incumbent committee members to take part in graduation and other end-of-year responsibilities such as superintendent evaluations based on at least a full year’s experience, rather than turning those jobs over to new members who have been in office only a few weeks.

Requested by the School Committee; supported by the Select Board; approved by Town Meeting in October 2021

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