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School budget tops Northfield warrant

NORTHFIELD — Next year’s town budget and capital projects could come $250 shy of needing a tax cap override after Monday’s annual town meeting.

The Finance Committee will recommend the town fund $3.872 million, $324,329 less than the Pioneer Valley Regional School District has requested. Otherwise, the town could exceed its property tax levee limit and trigger an override election, which would require two-thirds approval.

The district proposed a $12.1 million budget, after cutting about $225,000 from its earlier proposed budget.

Northfield’s share would have been $4.2 million, a 12.7 percent increase over this year’s share. The $3.87 million the Finance Committee suggests would be a 3.9 percent increase.

Outside revenues are expected to pay $5.8 million of the budget, leaving the four member towns to pay $8.3 million. Northfield pays the most of the district’s four towns, at 50.89 percent. Town shares are determined by a formula set by the state, and the percentage each town pays cannot be adjusted.

For the school budget to be amended, at least two of the district’s four towns must vote on amounts less than those requested. If that happens, the “highest common denominator” would be used to formulate a new budget.

It’s a possibility this year, with more than one town seeking smaller increases to their school costs.

Warwick voters are also being asked to lower their school assessment. The smaller town’s share of the district’s proposed budget is $752,932, but Warwick’s proposed budget calls for $702,594. The town can fund more, up to the full amount the district requested, by amending the omnibus budget on the town meeting floor.

The Finance Committee has recommended that voters pass all other money articles.

The Pioneer district seeks to borrow $400,000 to replace computer equipment and software in all district schools. Northfield’s share would be about half, as with the school budget’s four-town breakdown. The School Committee has authorized the debt for a five-year repayment, to begin in fiscal year 2016. All four towns must approve for the debt to be issued.

The largest school projects requested this year would be funded with money left from previously funded projects.

Voters will be asked to repurpose up to $45,000, which had been appropriated for district office heating and cooling repairs, to conduct a study of the repair or rebuilding of the central office buildings. Another article would use $25,235 from a central office project approved last year to instead fund parking lot and road repairs and carpeting at the high school.

Northfield Elementary School projects include $7,000 to extend a canopy over the entrance and $5,000 to repair or replace restroom partitions.

The Highway Department is asking $200,000 to buy land in East Northfield and build a new salt and sand shed. This would replace the deteriorating shed and bring it closer to the majority of town roads.

The Fire Department seeks $100,000 for a new fire engine. Added to $350,000 saved in recent years, it would give the town enough for the new truck.

The Emergency Medical Services Department will ask voters to allow it to hire part-time, non-benefitted paramedics, as a key part of its move to paramedic-level service. Their salaries would come out of the self-funding department’s fees for service, rather than taxation.

Monday at 7 p.m.

The annual town meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in Pioneer Valley Regional School.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

(Editor's note: Some information in this story has changed from an earlier edition)

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