EASTHAM — With less than two months to go until the May 2 town meeting, finance committee meetings have become a revolving door of department heads presenting their budgets.
The proposed fiscal 2023 operating budget is up by almost $2 million, from $32.8 to $34.8 million, a 5.89-percent increase.
Last month, Police Chief Adam Bohannon and Dept. of Public Works Director Silvio Genao discussed recent revenue increases and persistent challenges in their budgets. Next up for review will be the fire, planning, and building departments on March 9.
Police Hiring Trouble
Chief Bohannon is asking for an increase of $84,336 in police salaries and another $16,071 in other expenses. The total public safety budget line item is proposed at $5.4 million, which is 4.3 percent higher than the current year. It includes both the police and fire dept. budgets.
Though the police have been down one officer for a year, the savings of not paying that salary have been erased by overtime costs, which rose by $70,300, Bohannon said.
Overtime cost $84,300 from July 2020 to February 2021. It went to $154,600 during the same period in fiscal 2022. And 63 percent of the overtime was for shift coverage, the chief said. The recent winter storm, for example, cost roughly $8,000 in overtime, he added.
“Recruiting has been an issue for us,” Bohannon told the finance committee on Feb. 23. The department has been looking for a new officer since March 2021, when Mark Peterson resigned to take a police job in his hometown of Sandwich.
The department made conditional offers to two people, but neither of them could pass the necessary tests, which include background checks and physical and psychological evaluations. A third recruit, who is already certified and works for a nearby department, is “very close” to finishing testing and will likely start around April 1, Bohannon said.
The department will have another opening this fall, however, when an officer is promoted to replace a retiring sergeant.
“When we hire someone, we look for a local connection to the community,” Bohannon said. “We do that for retention purposes. But also, we feel that makes a better police officer in this community.”
Police depts. that relied on summer officers are now phasing them out because of the 2020 police reform law.
The summer program, Bohannon said, “used to be our biggest recruiting tool.” He added, “It was almost an ongoing job application.”
The chief said many candidates now have no intention of staying in town. “We get 25 to 30 applications, but a lot of them are from other states,” he said. “You can read between the lines that they’re going to get the training, then go somewhere else.”
Trash: Eastham’s Treasure
The transfer station produced nearly a million dollars in revenue in fiscal 2021, which ran from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, DPW Director Genao told the finance committee on Feb. 16. The $965,000 revenue figure is a significant increase over the $791,000 cleared in fiscal 2019.
Solid waste revenues from the transfer station make up nearly 17 percent of local receipts; for comparison, the short-term rental tax is projected to generate 16.3 percent of local receipts, according to Genao’s fiscal 2023 budget presentation.
Genao called the transfer station “the jewel of the town.”
Sticker fees for town residents have not gone up. Yet the DPW has made money by increasing fees to private disposal companies. “They can go somewhere else,” Genao explained, “but let’s find a market price that’s good enough for them and us so that they don’t go to another transfer station.”
Genao also noted that, likely as a result of the pandemic, the amount of solid waste taken in spiked in 2020 but fell by 300 tons in 2021 to 6,600,000 pounds. “It’s still high, but I think it’s going to be the new normal,” he said.