Laying bare the minutiae of Harvard’s annual town budget is the fiscal equivalent of doing a full-body scan. Credit and thanks are due the Finance Committee volunteers who have signed up to do the work of ensuring its health, a job that requires the skills and sensitivity of a top-notch financial internist.
While this week’s budget story suggests that the financial state of the town is healthy—with a projected surplus of $75,000—anyone who has examined the budget narratives and spreadsheets of the town’s 18 departments and committees knows that this result, ephemeral as it may be, comes at a cost. The decree that departments and boards not increase spending in the coming year will be felt in reduced services and delayed projects. And for the town’s salaried and contract employees, flat spending means, for the moment, no cost of living increase, no increase in stipends, and no merit pay.
As the Finance Committee begins its deliberations, we urge them to put people first, those who tend to our elderly, ensure our safety, teach our children, and provide the amenities that make Harvard special. They might begin by adding back those withheld COLAs and merit pay increases.