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2020 Spring Town Meeting Warrant in Plain English

At Saturday’s Spring Town Meeting, voters will be asked to decide on 21 articles put forward by the Select Board and various other town committees. On the following pages we explain each in everyday English, including the amount of money involved, its source, who oversees its use, whether the article impacts your taxes and—when less than obvious—the consequences of voting yes or no.

At Town Election June 23, voters will decide on four ballot questions: whether to pass a $320,000 budget override; whether to borrow $4.3 million to build an addition to Hildreth House, the town’s senior center; whether to borrow an additional $921,360 to replace the slate roof of the old library; and finally, whether to borrow $660,000 to replace the middle school ramp at the Bromfield School.

If you’re looking for legalese, you’ll find it in the Town Meeting booklet, which all residents should have received by mail this week. The booklet contains the exact wording of all articles, their cost, and whether they’ve been recommended by the Finance Committee and, when capital expenditures are involved, by the Capital Planning and Investment Committee. Readers should be aware, however, that the final wording and exact dollar amounts of some articles won’t be known until motions for their adoption are read on the floor of Town Meeting. Motions can be amended, so you’ll need to stay on your toes.

For help with specialized terms such as “General Fund” or “levy,” see our “Glossary of Town Meeting Jargon.” Finally, for details on how to speak and legislate at Town Meeting, see the “Town Meeting Procedures,” prepared by the League of Women Voters of Harvard, on pages 31 and 32 of the town meeting booklet.


ARTICLE 1: ANNUAL REPORTS

  • Inserted by Select Board
  • No financial impact
  • Requires majority vote

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 vote for the article opens the door for any board or committee to step forward and tell the town of its activities and accomplishments over the past year. Select Board Chair Alice von Loesecke has said she will report the board’s progress in achieving its fiscal 2020 goals and the state of the town. School Building Committee member SusanMary Redinger says she will update Town Meeting on progress in building the new elementary school.

It’s rare for other boards to speak, but details of their work can be found in three reports available at Town Meeting. The 2020 Town Meeting booklet includes reports from the Finance, Capital, and Community Preservation committees on the state of town finances. The 2019 Annual Town Report includes reports submitted for the 2019 calendar year by every town department and volunteer committee, as well as the minutes of the 2019 Annual and Special Town Meetings. The annual report is packed with statistics that will be of interest to citizens in an analytical mood. The School Committee typically provides a separate financial report of its own, but there is no word on whether it will do so this year. Residents should have received a copy of the Town Meeting booklet in their mailboxes. The annual report will be distributed at Town Meeting on Saturday.


ARTICLE 2: EXTEND SUNSET DATES

  • Inserted by Select Board
  • Amount: None appropriated, but will extend previously set budgets
  • Money source: General fund, unexpended amounts
  • Tax impact: None in fiscal 2021
  • Vote required for passage: Majority vote
  • Recommended by Finance Committee and Select Board

This article seeks to extend the sunset dates of several funded articles from past Town Meetings to June 30, 2022, allowing the relevant committees to continue spending the money allocated to them. Included in the list are as follows: Article 41 of the warrant of April 5, 2016, on invasive plant management by the Conservation Commission; Articles 19, 21, and 28 of the warrant of May 5, 2018, on replacing hot water tanks at Bromfield, renovating the Bromfield bathrooms, and invasive plant management by the Conservation Commission, respectively; Article 3 of the warrant of May 4, 2019, (previously extended since Article 22 of the warrant of April 1, 2017) on fire pond restoration; and Article 22-4 of the warrant of May 4, 2019, on the Conservation Commission purchasing conservation land. As for the amount of money remaining for expenditures under each of these articles, $26,100 was appropriated for Article 41 and $11,572.18 remains; $28,000 remains for Article 19; $25,000 remains for Article 21; $26,000 was appropriated for Article 28 and all $26,000 remains; $80,985.35 remains for Article 3; and $100,000 was appropriated for Article 22-4 and all $100,000 remains.


ARTICLE 3: OMNIBUS BUDGET

  • Inserted by Finance Committee
  • Amount: $33,718,234
  • Money source: General fund
  • Tax impact: The omnibus budget, a combination of operating expenses and excluded debt, drives each year’s taxes
  • Vote required for passage: Two-thirds vote
  • Recommended by Finance Committee and Select Board

The town’s omnibus budget is typically approved in a matter of minutes, often without a single question asked or comment made, but with its execution dependent on an override for the first time in 12 years, this could be the most debated article of the morning.

On its six pages (see pages 34-39 in this year’s Town Meeting booklet), the budget lays out the amount the Select Board recommends be spent by each department in the coming year. The document also shows how much each department spent in fiscal years 2018 through 2019, and the amount authorized for fiscal 2020 (actual spending won’t be known until the fiscal year ends).

The budget for fiscal 2020 totaled $30,442,584 (see the line titled “Grand Total Omnibus Budget” on page 39). The fiscal 2021 budget is 11% higher.

As always, the operating budget for Harvard’s schools (“Total Education,” page 37) accounts for the biggest chunk of town spending, totaling $17.5 million, a 6% increase over fiscal 2020. Additional detail can be found on pages 7-10 of the Town Meeting booklet. The School Committee typically provides its own details in a separate handout.

Benefits for town and school employees (“Total Insurance and Fringe Benefits,” page 39) will surge to $5.7 million next year, following a 15% jump in fiscal 2020 that was driven by a spike in health insurance costs. Benefit costs include the $500,000 the town plans to contribute to its Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) fund as it plans for the cost of future retiree benefits.

Excluded debt will jump dramatically as well, as interest on borrowing for the start of new school construction kicks in. The total is expected to rise by 7%, from $2.2 million this year to $$3.8 million in fiscal 2021. (See “Total Debt Service” on page 39.)

Other big budget categories include:

General government, which includes salaries for the town administrator and assistant town administrator, finance director, and town clerk and pays for the operation of town buildings: $1.6 million, virtually unchanged from the previous year (see “Total General Government,” on page 36).

Public safety, including spending for police, fire, ambulance, and inspectional services: $2 million, a 5% increase (see “Total Public Safety” on page 37).

Physical environment, most of which is for the Department of Public Works (see lines 31, 32, and 33), but includes the Transfer Station, water department, and cemeteries: $1.6 million, a 6% increase (see Total Physical Environment on page 38).

Before a penny of this money can be spent next fiscal year, Town Meeting must give its assent. And this year, because the budget is in deficit by $317,269, voters must also pass Question 1 at the ballot box, an override that would increase the tax levy an additional $320,000 and raise taxes on a $600,000 home by $156 next fiscal year. 


ARTICLE 4: VOTING BOOTHS AND STANCHIONS

  • Inserted by Select Board
  • Amount: $1,000
  • Money source: General fund, unexpended amounts
  • Tax impact: None in fiscal 2021
  • Vote required for passage: Majority
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Town clerk
  • Recommended by Finance Committee and Select Board

This article seeks to fund the purchase of portable voting booths and barriers for election days in town –– a cost of $1,000. According to Town Clerk Marlene Kenney, the town is anticipating a higher turnout for early voting this year, so these new voting booths would be in addition to the town’s current ones for greater accommodation. Kenney said the current voting booths are wooden, whereas these portable ones are plastic, which makes for easier disinfection after use. “This has become an important pandemic priority this year and probably into the future,” she said. Furthermore, the town’s current barriers are a “tripping hazard,” according to Kenney, who explained that new stanchions would be a safer alternative and better control the flow of voters.


ARTICLE 5: CHARLIE WAITE FIELD ELECTRICAL REPAIR

  • Inserted by Select Board
  • Amount: $7,200
  • Money source: General fund, unexpended amounts
  • Tax impact: Adds to total FY21 expenditures
  • Vote required for passage: Majority vote
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Department of Public Works director, with the approval of the Select Board
  • Recommended by Finance Committee and Select Board

in this article would pay to replace the failed underground electrical system at the Charlie Waite field that is needed to operate the field’s irrigation system. The Parks and Recreation Commission and DPW hope to restore the field this summer, but without water during the dry weeks of August and September, aeration, seeding, and other efforts would be wasted.

ARTICLE 6: PERFORMANCE-BASED WAGE ADJUSTMENTS

  • Inserted by Select Board
  • Amount: $26,602 (to supplement the amount appropriated under Article 3)
  • Money source: General fund, unexpended amounts
  • Tax impact: Adds to total FY21 expenditures
  • Vote required for passage: Majority
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Department heads
  • Recommended by Finance Committee and Select Board

This amount was originally approved by the Personnel Board and recommended by the Finance Committee as a pool of money to be used for merit raises for nonunion employees, such as  office workers and staff in Town Hall and the library, who met or exceeded performance goals.


ARTICLE 7: PURCHASE AND INSTALL SCADA CONTROL PANELS

  • Inserted by Select Board
  • Amount: $17,500
  • Money source: General fund, unexpended amounts
  • Tax impact: Adds to total FY21 expenditures
  • Vote required for passage: Majority vote
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Department of Public Works, with the approval of the Select Board
  • Recommended by Finance Committee and Select Board

The town has three SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) control panels: one at the Bolton Road water tank, one at the Pond Road wells, and one at the fire station, all synchronized. The panels allow DPW workers to monitor water levels remotely. The water tank  panel was recently replaced, but the other two are too old to be upgraded and need to be replaced. They are working, but if anything goes wrong with them, they will not be fixable. The SCADA licenses for the panels will also need to be upgraded when the new panels are installed, which is the major part of the cost for this item.


ARTICLE 8: REPLACE VALVES AND RE-PIPE DECK GUN ON FIRE DEPARTMENT EQUIPMENT

  • Inserted by Select Board
  • Amount: $18,800
  • Money source: General fund, unexpended amounts
  • Tax impact: Adds to total FY21 expenditures
  • Vote required for passage: Majority vote
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Fire Chief, with approval of the Select Board
  • Recommended by Finance Committee and Select Board

New piping for the aimable, top-mounted, high capacity hose, or deck gun, on one of the fire engines will allow that apparatus to be retracted below the height of the truck while it is in transit. New water valves-—which connect a hydrant or tanker truck to a fire hose—are needed because the current valves are about 30 years old and failing. Getting parts to repair the valves is difficult, Lt. Andrew Perry of the Harvard Fire Department told the Press.


ARTICLE 9: CAPITAL PLANNING AND INVESTMENT COMMITTEE RECOMMENDED EXPENDITURES

  • Inserted by Capital Planning and Investment Committee
  • Money source: Capital Stabilization and Investment Fund (CSIF)
  • Tax impact: None in fiscal 2021; the money will come from the CSIF
  • Vote required for passage: Voted on individually, each requires a two-thirds vote
  • The Finance and Capital Planning and Investment committees as well as the Select Board recommend all of these projects be funded in fiscal 2021.

Article 9-1: Replace police cruiser

  • Amount: $45,950
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Police chief, Select Board

Each year the police department budget includes a replacement cruiser. Last year, when budget cuts had to be made to avoid an override, Police Chief Ed Denmark offered to delay the annual cruiser replacement for a year. This capital request is for that cruiser; a second cruiser is included in the budget, as it is each year.

This particular request is for a hybrid vehicle, which will save an estimated $3,273 in fuel a year, with a total of $13,092 savings over the four-year lifetime of the vehicle. This would make the net cost almost $10,000 less than a traditional cruiser with a gas engine. Denmark believes the life of the vehicle may be extended an additional year because the engine shuts off when stopped, eliminating the engine wear caused by the high amount of idling that cruisers have to do.


Article 9-2: Middle School ramp

  • Amount: $230,000 (CPIC has recently reported it will amend the requested amount to $20,000)
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Superintendent of schools, with School Committee approval

The elevated ramp that serves as an emergency exit for the second floor of the middle school wing of Bromfield is no longer structurally sound, nor does it meet ADA standards. A study by Abacus Architects concluded the ramp was beyond repair. Originally the Capital Planning and Investment Committee proposed taking $230,000 from the Capital Stabilization and Investment Fund to cover two public bathrooms beneath the ramp and a stairway as an additional emergency exit. However, the committee now recommends dropping those parts of the project and is expected to make a change at Town Meeting, asking for just $20,000 from the capital fund to cover the landscaping after construction. The main cost of the ramp itself would be funded by $660,000 in excluded debt, which requires approval at both Town Meeting and Town Election. (See Article 11-2 below.)


Article 9-3: Reconstruct and repair town roads

  • Amount: $225,000
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Department of Public Works director, with Select Board

Harvard receives about $350,000 a year in Chapter 90 funds from the state for road repair. That number has been stagnant for many years, while wages and equipment costs continue to rise. DPW Director Tim Kilhart says there is a backlog of roadwork, and this amount would allow the DPW to complete all that work this year. When asked if he thought there might be a reduction in Chapter 90 funds this year due to the state’s expected loss of revenue, he said no, because Chapter 90 funds come from bonds, not taxes. He said the town typically has the money by now, but the bill to authorize the funds is “still sitting on Governor Baker’s desk waiting to be signed.” He expects the town will have the money by July 1.


Article 9-4: Ayer Road engineering study

  • Amount: $75,000
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Department of Public Works director, with Select Board approval

Ayer Road from Route 2 to the Ayer town line, last paved in 1992, needs a complete repair and upgrade including sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and an improved drainage system. DPW Director Tim Kilhart has successfully gotten this project listed on the Federal Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) so that federal funds would coverall of the estimated $5.5 million construction cost. The 2018 Annual Town Meeting approved $300,000 for this study, but the actual contract cost of the work will be $375,000.

CPIC recommends this additional $75,000 be paid for with money from the Capital Stabilization and Investment Fund.


Article 9-5: Light-duty utility truck with plow

  • Amount: $65,000
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Department of Public Works director, with Select Board approval

The DPW’s current truck is showing wear after 10 years of use and will need major repairs estimated at $4,000; $3,000 was already spent on repairs last year. DPW Director Tim Kilhart told the Press that buying a new truck would be more cost effective than repairing the old vehicle further. Kilhart said this new truck will also be used for snow plowing. If this article passes, the truck to be purchased will be diesel-powered, allowing it to both plow snow and tow trailers more efficiently.


Article 9-6: Small tractor for athletic fields and sidewalks

  • Amount: $49,000
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Department of Public Works director, with Select Board approval

According to DPW Director Tim Kilhart, the town does not currently have the proper equipment to maintain the athletic and recreational fields. Kilhart said a new tractor will have several attachments that would not fit the DPW’s current tractor and if the town were to purchase additional attachments for the current tractor, they would not fit a newer model. Furthermore, the tractor is getting old, making this solution more cost effective. The tractor to be purchased will have attachments useful for work in larger fields, such as fertilizing and bagging grass, but can also clean up leaves and plow snow. He said that the DPW plans to keep the old tractor, too, since it is still functional and will be useful to have on hand. The request for this tractor is also supported by the School Committee and the Parks and Recreation Commission, as it would be used for field maintenance.


Article 9-7: Restore and expand war monument on Common

  • Amount: $17,000 (listed as $32,000 in the warrant; the committee has since received a $15,000 grant)
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: War Monument Committee, with Select Board approval

The War Monument Restoration Committee wants to add two new granite stones to the  monument on the southeast corner of the Common to hold plaques that will be inscribed with the names of Harvard residents who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars, with space for those who may serve in future wars. In addition, the committee is planning a special plaque to bring into one area on the Common the names of the seven Harvard residents lost during wartime service since the Civil War. The original request was for $32,000, but the committee was recently awarded a $15,000 matching grant by the Massachusetts Historical Records Board to help fund this effort. If this article does not pass, the committee would seek private donations, but since it is a matching grant, at least $15,000 would have to be raised in order to receive the full grant.


Article 9-8: Ayer Road market study and fiscal impact analysis

  • Amount: $37,000
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Planning Board, with Select Board approval

The Planning Board wants to hire a consultant to conduct a market study and fiscal impact analysis of the commercially zoned stretch of Ayer Road, between the Route 2 ramps and the Ayer town line. The study will determine the types of businesses best suited to Harvard and how development would affect the town fiscally, including likely costs and tax revenues.


Article 9-9: DPW building needs study

  • Amount: $40,000
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Department of Public Works director, with Select Board approval

The DPW garage, office area, mechanic’s bay, and pole barn are old, with structural integrity concerns, and are drafty and energy inefficient in the winter. This study would evaluate the scope of the work needed to renovate or replace the various buildings and would produce schematic designs to be used to get preliminary estimates for the project. This project was previously on the Capital Plan for fiscal 2021, but it was delayed because of the timing of the debt for the new elementary school. It is currently on the Capital Plan for fiscal 2023, with a placeholder price tag of $2.5 million.


Article 9-10: Cronin Auditorium improvements and renovation

  • Amount: $50,000
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Superintendent of schools, with School Committee approval

This is the third and final set of improvements planned for the Cronin Auditorium at the Bromfield School, which is the largest gathering space in town. The money requested this year would upgrade the projection system, continue work on the sound booth, and replace broken seats. The auditorium’s current projector is too small for the room, so it has to be placed partway down the aisle, amid a tangle of cords and cables. The cost of a new, permanently mounted laser projector, including installation, was estimated at about $30,000, making it the largest share of the expense.


Article 9-11: Bromfield athletic lockers and showers design study

  • Amount: $20,000
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Superintendent of Schools, with School Committee approval

The Bromfield locker rooms have fallen into disrepair after more than 50 years of use. The current state of the locker rooms includes nonfunctioning showers and rusted lockers, and the space is in need of repairs and repainting. The passage of this article would allow the superintendent of schools, with the approval of the School Committee, to hire a company to evaluate the current state of the locker rooms and design an update. Issues with plumbing, storage, and design would be addressed to decide how to move forward with repairs. Town Administrator Tim Bragan confirmed that the cost of this project –– $20,000 –– would be used for a study, not for renovations.


Article 9-12: Bromfield air conditioning

  • Amount: $150,000
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Superintendent of Schools, with School Committee approval

The air-conditioning project is focused on the south and west sides of the Bromfield School, where the rooms get uncomfortably hot in the afternoon during the spring and fall. The second-floor classrooms on that side now have noisy, inefficient window air conditioners. Classrooms on the first floor have no air conditioning at all, because window units there would undercut building security. (The old window units would be removed and used elsewhere if the air-conditioning project is approved.)


ARTICLE 10: OLD LIBRARY ROOF ADDITIONAL FUNDING

  • Inserted by Select Board
  • Amount: $921,360 (to be combined with the $480,000 in funds appropriated under Article 23 of the May 2019 Town Meeting)
  • Tax impact: Estimated at $47 in FY21 for a $600,000 house with lower amounts each subsequent year for 20 years
  • Money source: MGL Chapter 44 borrowing; proposition 2½ excluded debt
  • Vote required for passage: Two-thirds vote at Town Meeting and a majority vote at Town Election June 23
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Select Board
  • Recommended by a 3-2 vote of the Select Board. Not recommended by the Finance Committee and Capital Planning and Investment Committee

Passage of this article would allow the town to borrow funds to completely replace the old library roof and gutter system and repair all identified masonry issues in the exterior envelope.

In 2019 the town approved a $480,000 borrowing to replace the slate roof at the old library. It also approved $40,000 in Community Preservation funds to conduct an investigation of the roof and identify other repairs that may be needed due to water leaks over the years. The investigation found deteriorated masonry and problems with the gutter system. In addition, about 20% of the roof’s slate tiles were broken or missing.

A subsequent estimate to stop the current leaks and repair some of the deteriorated masonry came to $650,000, but the investigating firm recommended a full roof replacement and repair of all deteriorated masonry. The total cost for that package, which included soft costs (such as design work) and contingencies came to $1.3 million. The town applied for a $600,000 Cultural Facilities grant to offset the costs, but recently learned it would not receive a grant this year.

The Select Board voted 3-2 to recommend funding the project at its June 16 meeting. CPIC originally voted 3-2 against the project, but at a recent meeting where projects were reconsidered, that vote changed to 4-1 against the project. The committee said it needs a list of all the repairs the building needs to make it sound for at least the next 10 years before investing additional money. It also wants the town to investigate alternative uses for the building, which is  currently leased to the cultural organization Fivesparks. The Finance Committee is also concerned about the expense of maintaining the historic building, especially since it is  generating very little income.

Town Administrator Tim Bragan told the Press that, should this article fail, he is not sure if the $480,000 already voted by the town could be used to do some amount of repairs on the roof, gutters, and masonry. “It depends on how it was worded,” he said. Wording of the article in the warrant and the borrowing question was sparse (“replace slate roof at old library”). Bragan added that the new facilities manager has been working on repair options in case the article fails.

Note: Although the request for this article is $921,360, the Press has not been able to ascertain where that amount came from. The full estimate for the project, including soft costs and contingencies, was $1.3 million. That included the $40,000 investigation, which Community Preservation funds have already paid for, leaving a balance of $1.26 million needed for the project. Subtracting the $480,000 voted last year leaves $780,000, not $921,260, Neither Assistant Town Administrator Marie Sobalvarro, Permanent Building Committee Chair Cindy Russo, nor CPIC Chair John Seeley could explain this discrepancy as of press time. Seeley told the Press, “Our committee, unfortunately in hindsight, did not review details of the component costs that built to this number, probably because a majority of us did not support the request.” Hopefully the mystery will be solved in time for Town Meeting.


ARTICLE 11: CAPITAL PLANNING AND INVESTMENT COMMITTEE FISCAL YEAR 2021 DEBT RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Inserted by the Capital Planning and Investment Committee
  • Money source: MGL Chapter 44 borrowing; Proposition 2½ excluded debt
  • Impact on fiscal 2021 taxes: Yes. Money will be borrowed as excluded debt. Principal and interest will be paid by taxpayers over the life of the loan.
  • Vote required: Each item requires a two-thirds vote at Town Meeting and a majority at Town Election, June 23

Article 11-1: Council on Aging Hildreth House Addition

  • Amount: $4.3 million
  • Tax impact: Estimated at $143 in FY21 for a $600,000 house with lower amounts each subsequent year for 20 years
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Council on Aging, with Select Board approval
  • Recommended unanimously by Select Board. Not recommended by Finance Committee and Capital Planning and Investment Committee

The Council on Aging is requesting $4.3 million for a 6,271-square-foot building to be constructed 30 feet east of Hildreth House to provide sufficient space to meet the needs of Harvard’s growing population of older people. This building would include a large function room that could be divided into three areas for dining, classes, and other programs; a warming kitchen; handicapped-accessible bathrooms, central air conditioning; and a covered porch for outdoor dining. It is intended to be used as a community center as well, with ample meeting space. This is the second phase of a two-phase renovation and expansion project. The first phase, a renovation of the Hildreth House and parking lot for safety and code-compliance, was completed in 2017 at a cost of $1.6 million.

The Council on Aging has long maintained there is insufficient space at Hildreth House for the number of older people who want to attend programs and events there. Director Debbie Thompson told the Press that normally, only 24 people can fit in the dining room for the COA’s twice-weekly lunches. Holiday lunches, classes, and large events must be held in local churches, subject to availability. Thompson added that social distancing, which she believes will continue for some time, makes the lack of space at Hildreth House even more of a pressing issue.

The Select Board unanimously recommended the project at its June 16 meeting. The Finance Committee is opposed to the project on the grounds that it would cause too high an increase to the town’s debt. CPIC had originally recommended the project on a 3-2 vote, but at a recent meeting where capital projects were being reconsidered, member SusanMary Redinger changed her vote from yes to no on the grounds that the town is faced with an override and possible cuts to school staff. CPIC now stands at 3-2 opposed to the project.


Article 11-2: Middle School ramp replacement

  • Amount: $660,000
  • Tax impact: Estimated at $22 in FY21 for a $600,000 house; lower amounts each subsequent year for 20 years
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Superintendent of schools, with Select Board approval
  • Recommended unanimously by Select Board and Finance and Capital Planning and Investment committees

This article supplies the bulk of the funds to rebuild the elevated ramp to the second floor of the middle school wing of Bromfield, which serves as an emergency exit from that wing of the building. The existing ramp is no longer structurally sound, nor does it meet ADA standards. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which grants schools accreditation, found the ramp unsatisfactory in its last evaluation of Bromfield in 2013. A study by Abacus Architects concluded the ramp had to be replaced. (See write-up under Article 9.2.)


ARTICLE 12: COMMUNITY PRESERVATION COMMITTEE REPORT

  • Inserted by the Community Preservation Committee
  • Amount: No financial impact, but will report on recommended expenditures
  • Money source: General fund, unexpended amounts
  • Tax impact: None in fiscal 2021
  • Vote required for passage: Majority
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds:
  • Recommended by Community Preservation Committee

This article invites the Community Preservation Committee to report on its fiscal 2021 Community Preservation budget, which is also printed on pages 43 and 44 of the Town Meeting booklet. The report is typically delivered by the CPC chair, currently Didi Chadran.


ARTICLE 13: COMMUNITY PRESERVATION COMMITTEE

  • Inserted by Community Preservation Committee
  • Money source: Fiscal 2021 Community Preservation Fund, unspecified reserves
  • Tax impact: None.  The fund is fueled by a 1.1% property tax surcharge with a match of up to 100% from the state. In fiscal 2019 the state match was 15%.
  • Voted on individually, each requires a majority vote

These expenditures are recommended by the Community Preservation Committee; the Capital Planning and Investment Committee and Finance Committee and the Select Board do not comment on CPC articles.


Article 13-1: Tennis Court Resurfacing

  • Amount: $40,000
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Harvard Public School District

The Harvard Public School District requested $110,000 to resurface the existing tennis courts and to conduct an engineering study to determine the feasibility of fully renovating and expanding them. The courts are in bad condition, with large cracks that can affect the ball’s bounce and impede play. The grant for $40,000 will cover the cost of resurfacing.


Article 13-2: Restoration of Bromfield wall along Massachusetts Avenue

  • Amount: $89,200
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Historical Commission

This grant will fund the restoration of the third and final section of the Bromfield stone wall, a historical structure stretching along Mass. Ave. from the school driveway to Pond Road.


Article 13-3: Preservation of Historic Fire Department documents

  • Amount: $6,000
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Harvard Fire Department

Historical fire records were recently uncovered at the fire station; these documents are in need of preservation. CPC has been making annual grants for preserving town records, stored in the town vault. Not having funding for both, the committee decided to address the immediate need of the fire records and to resume funding the preservation of town records next year.


Article 13-4: Affordable housing funds 

  • Amount: $33,000
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Municipal Affordable Housing Trust

This is the minimum amount CPC must contribute to affordable housing in FY21.


Article 13-5: Conservation Commission fund

  • Amount: $150,000
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Conservation Commission

The Conservation Commission, Harvard Conservation Trust, and Sudbury Valley Trustees are working with the state to raise a total of $2.5 million to purchase an agricultural preservation restriction (APR) to permanently protect the 75-acre Prospect Hill orchard and keep it as open space and farmland. The orchard is owned by the Community Harvest Project, serving those who are food insecure in this region.


Article 13-6: Community Preservation Committee FY21 administrative expenses

  • Amount: $2,500
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Community Preservation Committee.

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


ARTICLE 14: NEW AMBULANCE ENTERPRISE FUND

  • Inserted by finance director
  • Tax impact: None in fiscal 2021
  • Vote required for passage: Majority vote
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Harvard Ambulance Service
  • Recommended by Finance Committee

This article establishes an enterprise fund for the town’s ambulance service under the provisions of Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 44, Section 53F, effective July 1, 2020. The article also authorizes the transfer of any balances left in the current ambulance revolving fund and the ambulance receipts reserved account to the new enterprise fund.

In an email to the Press, Finance Director Lori Bolasevich wrote that the new fund is a response to requests for a more detailed view of ambulance department income and expenses. Currently, the ambulance operates with a revolving fund, which does not require or provide detailed revenue and expense postings. The ambulance department has been self-supporting for a few years, so it seems logical to move it to an enterprise fund, she said, which will provide a clear picture for operating costs and revenue. Any excess revenues or unspent expenditures will be certified as retained earnings and kept within the Ambulance Enterprise Fund balance and available for future appropriation at a town meeting for operational costs or capital needs.


ARTICLE 15: FY2021 ENTERPRISE FUND BUDGETS (Sewer and Ambulance)

  • Inserted by finance director
  • Amount: This article allows the Sewer Enterprise Fund and Ambulance Enterprise Fund to be used to pay expenses of operating the town center sewer system and the Harvard Ambulance Service. A budget is set for each fund on page 39 of the omnibus budget: $241,947 for sewer and $243,338 for ambulance.  These funds are self-sustaining, however, and unless there is a deficit, their expenditures should have no impact on taxpayers’ wallets
  • Money source: Fees collected by the water and sewer commissions and by the Harvard Ambulance Service
  • Tax impact: None in fiscal 2021
  • Vote required for passage: Majority vote
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Water and sewer commissions and the Harvard Ambulance Service
  • Recommended by Finance Committee

This article sets the budgets of two enterprise funds; the existing Town Sewer Enterprise Fund and the Ambulance Enterprise Fund created by Article 14. Each budget sets the amount expected to be drawn from its fund in the coming fiscal year.

Sewer usage and connection fees are added to the sewer fund and used to pay for maintenance and repairs to the system, as well as debt service on the town center sewer system. Unspent money from prior years must be moved into the expense fund for the current fiscal year, where it is used to cover system expenses. The fund was given a budget of $248,650 for fiscal 2020.

A similar arrangement exists for the Ambulance Enterprise Fund, which bills health insurance companies and MassHealth for its calls. This money is then used to pay ambulance service expenses and to accumulate money toward purchase of a future ambulance. Because it is a new fund, there is no budget for fiscal 2020.


ARTICLE 16: AMEND THE CODE OF HARVARD, CHAPTER 21, REVOLVING FUNDS: Parks and Recreation field maintenance; deletion of ambulance revolving fund

  • Inserted by Select Board
  • Money source: Fees collected for use of fields and parks
  • Amount: Revolving funds are self-sustaining and require no appropriation
  • Tax impact: None in fiscal 2021
  • Vote required for passage: Majority vote
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Parks and Recreation Commission
  • Recommended by Finance Committee

Article 16 would create a revolving fund for field maintenance overseen by the Parks and Recreation Commission. The fund would be similar to that created for the beach in 2019. With the beach fund, Parks and Rec uses money from fee-for-use services such as parking stickers and boat rentals, puts that money into a revolving fund, and uses it to pay lifeguards and cover other operational expenses. The fund would be fueled by fees collected by Parks and Rec from the schools, sports clubs, and youth sports organizations for use of town parks and fields. It would be overseen by Parks and Rec, and capped at $65,000.

This article also deletes the existing ambulance revolving fund, which is replaced by the new enterprise fund created by Article 14.


ARTICLE 17: REVOLVING FUNDS

  • Inserted by Finance Committee
  • Amount: None appropriated, but limits spending for certain revolving funds
  • Money source: The funds listed in this article (see below) collect money from fees and services and use it to pay for their expenses and programs.
  • Tax impact: None
  • Vote required for passage: Majority vote
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Council on Aging, Harvard Community Cable Access Committee, and Parks and Recreation Commission
  • Recommended by Finance Committee

This article re-authorizes the following revolving funds and sets maximum amounts for fiscal 2021: Council on Aging ($35,000), Fourth of July Committee ($40,000), the Fire Department’s S.A.F.E. Program ($15,000), Harvard Community Cable Access Committee ($25,000), Parks and Recreation beach ($65,000), and a town account for fees and spending associated with the review of permit applications (not to exceed a balance of $1,000). The new Parks and Rec field maintenance fund is capped at $65,000.

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.


ARTICLE 18: AMEND CHAPTER 412 OF THE ACTS OF 2018 – CAP ON PROPERTY TAXES FOR MEANS-TESTED SENIORS

  • Inserted by Select Board
  • Money source: General fund, unexpended amounts
  • Tax impact: The tax relief granted to qualified senior taxpayers is paid for with a slight increase in the rate paid by everyone else.
  • Vote required for passage: Majority vote
  • Recommended by Select Board

This article clarifies the language in the original home-rule petition for a three-year program of tax relief sent to the Legislature last year. The intent of the law was to cap the property taxes of means-tested residents to 10% of their total annual household income. The tax to be paid cannot be reduced by more than 50%.  As written, the petition had allowed only about 15 residents to qualify for the program, when about 100 people should have qualified, according to Select Board member Stu Sklar.


ARTICLE 19: CITIZEN PETITION

  • Inserted by citizen petition
  • Currently no recommendations
  • Vote required for passage: Thought to be majority vote, but the Press was unable to confirm with town officials in time for this issue

Article 19 would transfer jurisdiction of the following town properties from the Select Board to the Parks and Recreation Commission: Pond Road walking path, Bare Hill Pond beach and woods, Charlie Waite field,  Harvard Park and McCurdy Track, and Ryan Land and Depot Road fields. Currently, Parks and Rec oversees much of the maintenance and use of these areas but does not have the legal authority to install amenities, write use agreements, or generally upgrade the areas; that power lies with the Select Board. Article 19 aims to resolve planning conflicts between the two committees regarding these areas and streamline care and improvement processes. (For more details see our analysis of the rationale behind Article 19.)


ARTICLE 20: ACCEPTANCE OF GIFTS OF PROPERTY

  • Inserted by Select Board

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, “the town gives thanks to those who have made such a donation,” wrote the committee in its comment.


ARTICLE 21: ACCEPTANCE OF HIGHWAY FUNDS

  • Inserted by Select Board
  • Amount: The fiscal 2021 apportionment has not yet been set by the state
  • Money source: General fund, unexpended amounts
  • Tax impact: By defraying some of the cost of maintaining Harvard’s roads, Chapter 90 highway funds from the state reduce the amount DPW must ask from the town and reduce the taxes of property owners and businesses
  • Vote required for passage: Majority vote
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Department of Public Works director

This vote is required by state law to accept so-called Chapter 90 funds that the state Department of Transportation provides each year for the repair and improvement of the town’s 64 miles of roads. Harvard received $350,767 for use in fiscal 2020, only $1,200 more than the amount apportioned by the state the previous year.


Ballot in Plain English

QUESTION #1: GENERAL OVERRIDE

  • Inserted by Select Board
  • Amount: $320,000
  • Money source: Levy
  • Tax impact: Passage of the override will raise taxes on a $600,000 house in Harvard by approximately $156. The increase is permanent.
  • Vote required for passage: Majority vote
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Town administration
  • Recommended by Finance Committee and Select Board

Harvard’s fiscal 2021 budget is out of balance, due to a shortfall in revenue of $317,269. To make up for the shortfall, the Select Board and Finance Committee recommend that the town raise an additional $320,000 with a general tax override. The ins and outs of this request are explored in this issue, including our front-page story, which includes a Q&A on the nature and impact of the override, a history of overrides in Harvard since 1989, a timeline that shows how the Select Board and Finance Committee arrived at their final budget recommendation, and a story that explains the relationship between budgets, excluded debt, property values and taxes.

If the fiscal 2021 omnibus budget passes at Town Meeting and the Question 1 general override passes at the ballot box, then the town can begin to spend against the omnibus budget presented on pages 34-39 in the Town Meeting booklet.

If the budget fails at Town Meeting, according to Town Administrator Tim Bragan, the town would have to operate with one-twelfth of fiscal 2020’s budget each month until a new budget could be passed. Time would be of the essence, because the first payment on the new school debt is due in August, and one-twelfth of last year’s budget would not cover that. The town has already identified a list of what it would cut to balance the budget, and it would call a Special Town Meeting to vote on the balanced budget as soon as it could.

If the budget passes but the override does not, this would be a less dire situation since the budget would have passed. Bragan said the items on the override-failure cut list would remain frozen, and the town would vote on a revised budget either at a July or August Special Town Meeting or at the scheduled Fall Town Meeting in October.


QUESTION #2 – COUNCIL ON AGING HILDRETH HOUSE EXPANSION/ADDITION

  • Inserted by Select Board
  • Amount: $4.3 million
  • Money source: MGL Chapter 44 borrowing; Proposition 2½ excluded debt
  • Tax impact: Estimated at $143 in FY21 for a $600,000 house with lower amounts each subsequent year for 20 years
  • Vote required for passage: Majority vote
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Council on Aging, with Select Board approval
  • Recommended by Select Board

This question authorizes the town to borrow funds to build a 6,271-square-foot standalone addition to Hildreth House to provide sufficient space to meet the needs of Harvard’s growing population of older people. See Article 11-1 for details.


QUESTION #3 – MIDDLE SCHOOL RAMP REPLACEMENT

  • Inserted by Select Board
  • Amount: $660,000
  • Money source: MGL Chapter 44 borrowing; proposition 2½ excluded debt
  • Tax impact: Estimated at $22 in FY21 for a $600,000 house with lower amounts each subsequent year for 20 years
  • Vote required for passage: Majority vote
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Superintendent of Schools, with Select Board approval
  • Recommended by Select Board, Finance Committee, and Capital Planning and Investment Committee

This question authorizes the town to borrow funds to rebuild the elevated ramp to the second floor of the middle school wing of Bromfield, which serves as an emergency exit from that wing of the building. The existing ramp is no longer structurally sound, nor does it meet ADA standards. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which grants schools accreditation, found the ramp unsatisfactory in its last evaluation of Bromfield in 2013. See Article 11-2 for details.


QUESTION #4 – SLATE ROOF FOR OLD LIBRARY

  • Inserted by Select Board
  • Amount: $921,360 (to be combined with the $480,000 in funds appropriated under Article 23-3 of the May 2019 Town Meeting)
  • Tax impact: Estimated at $47 in FY21 for a $600,000 house with lower amounts each subsequent year for 20 years
  • Money source: MGL Chapter 44 borrowing; Proposition 2½ excluded debt
  • Vote required for passage: Majority vote
  • Board or official authorized to expend funds: Select Board
  • Recommended by Select Board

This question authorizes the town to borrow funds to replace the old library roof and gutters and to do any necessary repairs to damage done by water leaks over the years. See Article 10 for details.

Note: The project scope specified in Question 4 is different from that specified in Article 10. Question 4 states that the funds will be used to “replace the slate roof on the Old Town Library and repair the brickwork adjacent to the roof,” while Article 10 specifies the funds will be used to “replace the roof and gutter system and repair all identified masonry issues in the exterior envelope.”  According to Town Administrator Tim Bragan, the language in Article 10 takes precedence over the language in Question 4, so the larger scope would apply.

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