EASTHAM — The warrant for the Sept. 26 annual town meeting has arrived in mailboxes and is now available on the town’s website at eastham-ma.gov.
Voters will be asked to act on 36 articles ranging from the usual operating budgets and capital acquisition requests to support packages for local families and the reduction of plastics in the environment.
In what would be a first for the town, Article 1 seeks to establish a water enterprise fund.
“We’re growing up,” said Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe. “We have a utility.”
The water enterprise fund would track the system’s revenues and costs, establish reserves to fund capital needs and repairs, and identify any subsidies the fund receives from the town’s general fund. While the municipal water system will seek a $144,406 subsidy from the general fund this year (that’s in Article 2A), Beebe said the utility is expected to break even once 2,000 customers are connected, which will probably happen within the next year or two, she said.
The town’s $30,422,389 operating budget, in Article 2, represents a 1.04-percent decrease from last year’s budget.
Beebe said the Covid-19 pandemic prompted the decrease in anticipation of reduced revenue from state sources and the town’s own receipts. She also cited the need to keep free cash reserves.
Capital acquisitions requests, in Article 3, total $619,000 for various upgrades, repairs, and replacements. The largest capital request, though, is in a separate item, Article 4. It seeks $400,000 to create a capital expense fund for recurring expenses. The funding would be used only for capital projects, and, according to a finance committee report, would reduce frequent override votes for capital items, reduce town borrowing costs, and improve the town’s bond rating. Its passage would be contingent on a Proposition 2½ override vote on Oct 6.
In its first year, the tax implications of the appropriation for a home with a median value — which in Eastham is now $449,000 — would be $62.86. New police radios and new 911 system equipment to make the town’s compatible with the state’s are high on the list of potential spending from the fund.
A number of articles are aimed at assisting residents who are struggling financially, starting with a $50,000 request, in Article 5, to fund the town’s betterment program. It would allow residents to borrow water connection fees and repay the amount through their annual tax bills over time.
Hardship and senior tax deferrals would be subject to a lower interest rate if voters approve Articles 21 and 22, both of which reduce interest rates on deferred tax payments to 3 percent from the current rate of 8 percent.
Article 23 asks the town to establish a tax relief fund that taxpayers could voluntarily donate to, through a designated area on their tax bills. The fund’s purpose would be to defray real estate taxes for low-income elderly and disabled residents.
A Family Support Package, in Article 8, seeks $490,500 to fund a year of services for families, including five full days of preschool for every resident 4-year-old, five half days for every resident 3-year-old, school lunch and other nutritional assistance to all resident children enrolled in the Nauset school system, and additional human service grants for the summer free lunch program and elementary after-school program. It also includes funding for the Affordable Housing Trust to develop options for affordable and workforce housing goals. Funding of the article is contingent on an Oct. 6 Proposition 2½ override vote. Town officials estimate the additional annual tax cost on a median-value home would be $71.84.
Visitors service board funding of $12,000, in Article 9, is sought to fund landscaping, lighting, holiday decorations, Windmill Green improvements, flower island support, and summer concerts ($8,000). Article 10 seeks $18,000 for the chamber of commerce’s information booth.
Future planning and programming funds are sought for the T-Time Development Committee ($20,000) and the 400 Commemoration Committee ($10,000) in their combined Article 11 request.
Two articles look to reduce plastic in the environment but in different ways. Article 18 seeks to establish a bylaw to reduce reliance on single-use plastics in town and reduce hazards to wildlife caused by helium balloons. The article would also phase out single-use plastic checkout bags, plastic straws, and polystyrene disposable food service containers and cutlery.
Article 19 asks the town to adopt a bylaw prohibiting the sale of noncarbonated, unflavored drinking water in single-use plastic bottles of less than one gallon. The select board supported the article but said they wanted to bring the bylaw up for another vote before its effective date should it fail to pass in surrounding towns. The water bottle ban was approved at Wellfleet’s Sept. 12 town meeting.
Town meeting is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26, starting at 10 a.m. at the Nauset Regional High School football field. It’s an outdoor event; the rain date is Sunday, Sept. 27, at 1 p.m.