Harbor and wharf accounts scrutinized



TREMONT — The town’s harbor management account is $15,000 in the red, and the wharf account is heading to a loss for this fiscal year, selectmen learned last week.

Interim Town Manager Dana Reed reported at a Sept. 15 selectmen’s meeting that for the fiscal year which ended June 30, the harbor management account was $15,128 in arrears.

Revenue for the account comes from mooring fees, boat excise tax and harbor-related fines.

According to Reed, revenues from the 2013-2014 fiscal year totaled $28,000 while expenses were $30,000, leading to a $2,000 loss for the year. However, the account started the year with a negative balance of more than $13,000.

The town also maintains a wharf fund, which gets revenue from the sale of wharf permits, dock use fees and rental income from a town-owned home and garage near the Bernard Wharf. That account sustained a loss of nearly $12,000 for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Revenues for the wharf account totaled about $77,000 with expenses totaling $89,000, Reed said. The account began the year with a balance of $180,000 and therefore is still in the black. This is misleading, he said.

The town borrowed $200,000 during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which went into the account, inflating the balance, Reed explained.

During the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the town spent $50,000 from the account for an installment payment on the loan for the former Closson property. The town faces that payment again this year, along with a $20,000 payment on the $200,000 loan. If the town continues to draw from this account at the same rate as last year, Reed predicts the wharf account will be $36,000 in the red.

Reed pointed out that there is no budget set for both the harbor management account and wharf account. He suggested selectmen consider establishing annual budgets for the accounts as a way to keep a better eye on spending.

Harbor committee member Mel Atherton was at the meeting and suggested one solution.

“The only thing we can do is try to generate more revenue,” he said.

Selectman Dean Wass said money could be saved by refining the harbormaster’s job description so not as much of the harbor-related work is outsourced to private enterprises.

“I think a lot of stuff can be done in-house,” Wass said.

Selectmen are expected to discuss the matter further at a future meeting.