With the selectmen’s vote last week to approve a $70.5 million budget for the coming fiscal year, we thought it might be interesting to take a look at how costs of doing the town’s business have grown in, say, a hundred years.
The Sandwich Town Clerk’s office is home to leather-bound copies of all of the town’s annual reports going back to when Sandwich first became Sandwich.
Among the many volumes, we found the report for 1914.
In that year, the town’s police department budget was $875. In language of the day, that line item was labeled “suppression of crime.” That same year, $238.75 was spent on the town’s volunteer fire department.
It’s important to note that in 1914, the town did not have a police or fire station.
The school budget in 1914 was $10,350. That included $6,159.12 in teachers’ salaries and $832.50 for Sandwich’s share of the school superintendent’s salary. Back then, Sandwich shared a superintendent with Bourne and Mashpee.
The town’s schools received $1,022 in aid from the state in 1914.
The town spent $3,000 on its roads that year, including $200 on snow removal. A total of $250 was spent on sidewalks, $200 on village improvements, and another $175 on the “plank walk,” which we can only assume is our beloved boardwalk.
There was also a $50 earmark for the library that year.
The year 1914 also marked the 275th anniversary of Sandwich’s incorporation. The town spent $275 (interestingly, one dollar for each year) on a celebration to mark the occasion. In other celebrations, the town spent $120 on Memorial Day and $25 for Fourth of July events.
Lastly, the town’s budget had a generous earmark of $2,900 for what was called the poor department.
Asked about this line item, town archivist Barbara Gill replied, “Before the state took over taking care of indigent people, the towns were responsible for them. This is what that dollar amount was.”
The grand budget total for the year was $27,609.57.
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It was a different time back in 1914. We had yet to experience a world war or the Great Depression. It was pre-prohibition and women still could not vote. Woodrow Wilson was in the White House. It was Babe Ruth’s first year in the majors and Charlie Chaplin had just made his film debut.
To help put the town’s spending into context, the average American made about $577 a year in 1914, a car cost roughly $550 and a modest home would set you back about $6,100.