Glossary

  • Appointed Official: A person chosen to fill a position in Harvard government. May be paid or unpaid, resident or non­ resident, full- or part-time.
  • Articles: Official wording of items to be voted on at Town Meeting. The agenda of a Town Meeting consists of individual items of business called articles, each of which is given a number.
  • Attorney General: Elected state official responsible for overseeing all legal matters for state government.  Among many responsibilities, the Attorney General's office must approve all actions of Town Meetings, represent and protect the interests of the citizens of the Commonwealth and prosecute on behalf of the Commonwealth.
  • Available Funds (often referred to as Free Cash): The amount certified annually by the Bureau of Accounts after it deducts uncollected taxes for prior years from the Town's surplus revenue.
  • Bureau of Accounts: Part of the state Department of Revenue, which supervises, assists and monitors the financial management and accounting practices of all towns.
  • Bylaws: Laws that relate to the corporate structure of a town; enacted by Town Meeting.
  • Campaign Finance: The receipt and expenditure of funds for running a campaign and the record keeping required under state statute.
  • Candidate: Harvard citizen and registered voter running for elected office.
  • Capital Budget: Part of the Finance Committee's budget­ planning process. Capital projects, including land purchases that cost more than $5,000 and have a useful life of over three years. Capital expenditures are projected for five years in Harvard.
  • Cherry Sheet: State forms giving all items of revenue the Town can expect from the state and charges from the state or county to the Town.
  • Conflict of Interest: The Standards of Conduct (Chapter 23 of the conflict law) provide a general code of ethics for all public employees and officials who may be faced with an overlap of private interests and official responsibilities. The conflict of interest law covers all municipal employees, whether elected or appointed, paid or unpaid, full or part time.
  • Elected Officials: Members of boards or committees who have been voted into office to serve for a specific period of time – one to five years depending.
  • Executive Session: Specific, defined procedure and occasions when a governmental body may meet privately to discuss sensitive issues.
  • Free Cash:  See Available Funds.
  • General Fund: This term refers to the accounting location for money taken in or paid out by the Town, including federal and state reimbursements. The money may only be appropriated by Town Meeting.
  • Hearings: Legally regulated meetings. Not every board or committee may hold hearings. Not to be confused with public meetings, which can be called by any board or committee.
  • Legal Signatures: Signatures of registered, resident voters, accompanied by local street addresses, as filed with the Town Clerk.
  • Levy: The levy is the amount of money the Town can raise through real and personal property taxes.

    Levy Ceiling: The levy ceiling is determined by calculating 2.5% of the total full and fair cash value of taxable property in a city or town.
  • Levy Limit: The dollars the Town can raise by taxation under Proposition 2 112 as certified by the Department of Revenue. This is the maximum the tax levy can be in a given year.
  • Moderator: The presiding official of Town Meetings.
  • Municipal Employees: All volunteer, elected, appointed or hired; paid or unpaid; full- or part-time workers.
  • Nashoba Associated Boards of Health: Founded in 1931, this public health agency is an association of 13 Boards of Health from the surrounding area. Overseen by our Harvard Board of Health, Nashoba provides nursing services, medical-social work services, dental health services and rabies clinics. They enforce state sanitary code regulations and participate in the testing and permitting required for wells and  septic systems.
  • Nomination Papers: A form requiring legal signatures for town office that then allows a candidate's name to be printed on the ballot.
  • Omnibus  Budget:  For convenience,  all recommended appropriations for operating expenses of the various Town departments are gathered in one article for the Annual Town Meeting.  Also referred to as the line item budget.
  • Open Meeting Law: This state statute requires that public business be conducted in public. All meetings of governmental bodies must be posted in advance and (except executive sessions) be open to the public. Written records of proceedings must be maintained.
  • Overlay:  The overlay is an amount up to 5% of the tax levy in excess of appropriations and other charges. The Assessors calculate this amount and use it to cover the possible shortfall in tax revenue from tax abatements and to avoid fractions as required by law.
  • Overlay Reserve: After all taxes for a year have been abated or paid, the unused overlay balance is held in an account called “the Overlay Reserve.” From that account, the Town Meeting may transfer an amount to the reserve fund, or it may be held for the following year's overlay.
  • Override: The majority vote needed at both a Town Meeting and at an election to increase the levy limit allowed under Proposition 2 1/2.
  • Proposition 2 1/2: Since 1980, towns have been limited in the amount of property tax they may levy without n override vote. This limitation requires the property tax to be held to no more than 2 1/2% of the previous year's tax levy plus the yield on new construction.
  • Public Employees:   See Municipal Employees.
  • Raise:  To obtain money for the town through taxation.
  • Reserve Fund: Money  is  certified  by  the  Department  of Revenue from the overlay reserve that cannot exceed 5% of the tax levy from the preceding year.  Disbursements are made by a vote of the Finance Committee (or the Town Meeting) at the request of town departments only if the expenditure is un­ usual  or  exceptional  or  could  not  be  foreseen  at  the  time appropriation requests were prepared.  Sums not transferred by June 30 revert to the overlay reserve.
  • Robert’s Rules of Order: The definitive book detailing procedures for running meetings.
  • Special Town Meeting: See Town Meeting. Special Town Meetings may be called by the Selectmen or by citizen petition to conduct business in between Annual Town Meetings.
  • Stabilization Fund: A special account created to provide for capital expenditures.  It is invested until it is needed.
  • State Ethics: The state governs the conduct of public employees when personal interests or relationships overlap with public obligations.
  • Surplus Revenue: This is the amount by which cash, accounts receivable and other floating assets exceed the liabilities and reserves.
  • Town Caucus: A meeting of registered voters called annually to nominate no more than two candidates for each elective local office.
  • Town Meeting: The legislative branch of local government. A meeting at which registered voters conduct the business of governing Harvard, including making laws and expending money.
  • Town Report: A comprehensive record of all Town activities for a given year.
  • Transfers: Money appropriated for use in a line item of the Omnibus Budget and later proposed to be moved to another line item or to be expended for another purpose. It is also the money from any designated fund proposed for use in a Warrant article.
  • Voters List: A list of all registered voters  in  Town,  maintained by the Board of Registrars and available from the Town Clerk. It contains names, addresses and party affiliations and indicates whether a person voted in the last election.
  • Warrant:   A document that grants authority to do something.
    The list of articles that make up the agenda for Town Meeting.
    The authorization to pay or deliver to another.
  • Windfall: A term used in Harvard in the 1980s to describe the additional amount of state reimbursements received based on census data that included, for the first time, the population of Fort Devens – initially $1 million dollars.
  • Write-in Candidate: Anyone wishing to run for elective office who declares after the deadline for filing of nomination papers. A sticker with the candidate's name and address must be supplied to voters, or voters wishing to vote for the candidate, must write in the information on their ballot and mark an X by the name.