HARVARD -- Taking over Harvard's portion of Devens would mean a financial loss for Harvard, according to the latest report from the Devens Economic Analysis Team.
Presented to selectmen last Tuesday, the report finds an annual deficit of over $800,000 that is similar to previous estimates. A loss of business and the impacts of the past recession caused low tax assessments and revenues.
"Based on our projections, the revenue from Devens at this point in time is not adequate to cover all of the projected operating costs," said Victor Normand, a member of the DEAT.
The price tag for operating the Harvard part of Devens was estimated at $4.5 million, with total revenues at about $3.7 million.
Tax revenues would rake in about $2.7 million, while nontax revenues would bring in $949,082 each year, the report estimates.
The team compared eight other towns with a similar population and commercial tax base to that of both Harvard and Harvard's part of Devens combined.
The recession hit Devens in fiscal year 2013, as commercial and industrial property values declined by more than 20 percent, the report finds. If Harvard had taken over Devens at that time, the recession would have cost $658,075 in revenue loss from the previous year.
But the report foresees "significant improvement" for this fiscal year and in the future as the economy improves. New development such as Bristol Myers Squibb and New England Studios could close the gap, the report argues.
Normand said the team is fairly confident that at some point, possibly in two to three years, revenues will exceed expenses.
"The $4.5 million, that number will not grow by very much going forward," he said. "But the revenue will as more land gets sold, as more tax agreements work through the system."
The Devens portion of Harvard would increase Harvard's commercial and industrial property from just five percent to a combined Devens/Harvard percentage of 16.6.
Even now, Normand argued, there are still more development possibilities.
"The development potential at Devens is not fully realized," he said. "The commercial industrial tax base at Devens has lots of room to grow."
The report is also relatively conservative, as the team chose the highest per capita budget among the eight similar towns and assumed a full Devens population of 1,000.
"Everything that we've done, whenever we had to make a choice, we would chose the more conservative number," Normand said.
At their meeting last week, the Finance Committee posed a few more financial questions regarding Devens as it prepared for its meeting with the Master Plan Steering Committee. Phase 2 of the town's latest master plan is underway.
Associate member Bruce Nickerson asked what would happen if Devens incorporates as a town.
"That also has a certain measure of impact," he said. "I think that needs to be looked at as well."
Nickerson highlighted the fact that some volunteer services in Harvard are paid positions in Devens.
"If we were to take Devens and a number of Devens employees, would that suddenly give us a big balloon in OPEB (other post-employment benefits)?" he asked.
FinCom Chair Alice Von Ludwig asked who would pay for impact analysis surveys.
"MassDevelopment should, if there are three to four (or) however many scenarios they're going to look at," she said.
FinCom member Laura Villain asked who would be courting whom in the whole matter of financial impact.
"Who wants what to happen?" she asked. "We have slotted summertime to look at how much debt we're comfortable in taking on, and how much debt we're comfortable in taking on is not the Devens question, but it is on every other piece of the question."
Follow Amelia on Twitter and Tout @AmeliaPakHarvey.