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Road grader sought at Ashfield town meeting Saturday

ASHFIELD — On Saturday , annual town meeting voters will decide whether to authorize a $150,000 debt exclusion, so that the town can buy a new highway grader.

The annual town meeting begins at 10 a.m. in Town Hall. The annual election also takes place, in downstairs polling booths, beginning at 10 a.m.

The Highway Department’s 1985 road grader was purchased by the town in 1987, after flooding had badly damaged the town’s dirt roads. But now it’s mostly used for snow-plowing, said Selectboard Chairman Thomas Carter. “The first 10 years, we got good use out of it, but now it’s getting harder to find replacement parts,” he said.

To buy a $285,000 new grader, town officials want to pay $135,000 in available funds and finance $150,000, with three annual payments of $50,000. Carter said this debt exclusion will have “zero effect” on the tax rate, because other items paid for with roughly $80,000 per year of debt exclusion funds are being paid off.

Also, Carter said the current low interest rate is another reason why the town should buy a grader now.

The town’s request for vocational education costs dropped by about $110,000 from this year’s cost, but Mohawk’s school assessment has increased by about $107,000 — or 6 percent. Town officials are debating whether to recommend passage, since the budget was raised by $80,000 after the public budget hearing, to accommodate the French and Peer Leadership classes.

“I think this will be a discussion for town meeting floor,” said Selectboard Chairman Thomas Carter.

Finance Committee Chairman Ted Murrary said his board is not recommending passage of the school assessment, because of the 11th-hour increase. He said both the finance and select boards had come to the public hearing with concerns about what had been a 5.2 percent school assessment hike for Ashfield — only to have the town’s $93,000 assessment increase boosted to $107,881 a week later — without any notice to town officials. “This year’s Mohawk operating expenses make up 46 percent of our budget — all this, while our enrollments are decreasing (by six students),” said Murray. “To keep paying more money for less students doesn’t make sense.”

One article asks to authorize the Selectboard to enter into renewable energy purchases or net metering credit purchase agreements, including solar energy, for terms of more than three years.

This year, the town is seeking $288,047 for general government expenses, which represents about a $10,000 decrease from the sum approved at last year’s annual town meeting. One reason for the decrease is that the town budgeted $7,500 last year for tax-title procedures — but no money for tax title in the coming year. Also, $15,000 was requested last spring for “legal expenses,” but the town is budgeting $10,000 for Fiscal Year 2014.

The town’s Highway Budget request is up, from this year’s $455,974 to $492,104. Most of this $36,000 increase is because the request includes $17,000 for lake dam maintenance and $15,000 for retention wall repair. Over this year, only $1,000 was budgeted for dam maintenance.

Town officials are pleased that Ashfield has enough money to transfer up to $200,000 of its available funds into the town’s “rainy day” stabilization account. Last spring, the town only had enough revenue to transfer about $75,000 into stabilization.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

Related

Health board contest in Ashfield Saturday election

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

ASHFIELD — Barring write-in campaigns, residents will see just one contest on Saturday’s election ballot — for a three-year seat on the Board of Health. They will also see a debt-exclusion ballot question that asks if the town should “raise and appropropiate” toward the cost of a new highway grader — exempting it from the Proposition 2½ tax levy limit. … 0

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