HTA throws in the towel

Harwich Taxpayers Association gives up in frustration
HTA ends ten year run.

To the Editor:

Last October, the Executive Committee of the Harwich Taxpayers Association (“HTA”) voted to suspend the operations of HTA as of December 31, 2013. This was a carefully considered action that reflects the Committee’s frustration with the inability of the Board of Selectmen (“BOS”) and town management to address the town’s underlying financial problems and/or hold individuals responsible for their individual actions affecting the well being of the town.

We believe that HTA has been effective in many areas during its 10 years or so of operation. We successfully fought the $3 million override and negotiated a $1 million override in its place that has retained key town services at acceptable levels. We supported the findings of the Operation s Review Task Force (“ORTF”). We facilitated discussions between the BOS, town management and both resident and non-resident taxpayers. We provided “pushback” on financial decisions that we thought were not carefully considered and supported those that we felt were.

However, there comes a time when the frustrations of dealing with entities that are so determined to ignore major issues effecting the long-term financial health of the town that it doesn’t make sense to continue the fight. Some examples of these issues/actions are:

  • ORTF, chaired by the current Chair of the BOS, made recommendations which if implemented would save the town between $10 and $12 million. Most of these recommendations have not been implemented. These include such basic recommendations as centralizing purchasing, selling the harbormaster facility on Bank Street and implementing an employee performance appraisal system.
  • The blind acceptance of assertions made by parties with an interest in the outcome. For instance, the recent disclosure of the reduced (or lost) savings from regionalizing the schools. This projected savings was one of the key reasons for accepting regionalization. Yet now we will be lucky to see these savings, but there is no accountability for those who made the assertions. A similar situation potentially exists with the new high school. Will we actually see the projected enrollment that served as the basis for the size of the school? If we don’t achieve the projected enrollment will we need to return some of the state funding?
  • Employee costs make up the bulk of the town and school budgets. On the town side we have tried to reorganize but have succumbed to union pressures. We should be developing backup outsourcing plans for every department as a potential means of savings.
  • Lack of school oversight. We continue to see reduced school enrollments with increased per student costs. Further, the outflow of students continues. We should be expecting reduced costs, but are not receiving them.
  • A few years ago the town did a study of ambulance response time. It found that if you live in certain areas of town your expected response time was well outside acceptable limits, thus decreasing significantly your opportunity for survival. Yet, no action has been taken to correct this problem.

These are but a few of the frustrations that we have dealt with over the years. Unfortunately we have a BOS and an apathetic voting block that is more concerned with being non-controversial than addressing these major issues. Over the years the Taxpayers Association has made recommendations, that if implemented would result in as much as an almost $1,000 per year tax savings on a typical home valued at $350,000. We hope that our taxpayers remember this as they moan about their most recent tax bills.

Some of our members will continue to fight for what is right, but as individuals rather than as an organization. We want to thank all of our members and supporters over the years.

On behalf of the Executive Committee,

Geoffrey A Wiegman, President welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on