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Northfield to vote on school budget Monday

Construction bylaw also on town meeting warrant

NORTHFIELD — A proposed $6.86 million budget that’s grown by 4.9 percent from the current year’s tops the Monday annual town meeting warrant.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in Pioneer Valley Regional School.

Despite the increase, Finance Committee Chairwoman Lois Stearns said there will be enough tax capacity and available funds to pay for the omnibus budget and capital articles without a Proposition 2½ override.

At 63.1 percent of the total budget, education is the town’s biggest cost. Operating and capital assessments for the Pioneer Valley Regional School District and Franklin County Technical School are up 5 percent from this year’s, for a total $4.33 million.

In February, the School Committee proposed a maximum $14.3 million budget, up 5.79 percent from last year. State aid, however, is not increasing at that rate, and other revenues have decreased.

The Pioneer district is still waiting to hear how much state aid it will receive, however, and the School Committee has not voted on a final budget proposal yet.

At a meeting last week, the committee voted to keep town assessments at no more than 4 percent more than this year’s when formulating a final budget proposal. Northfield’s annual budget asks $3.76 million for PVRSD operating costs, allowing for that 4 percent increase.

A new bylaw could limit new construction in town to six dwellings in a one-year period.

Due to the uncertainty of development that may be spurred by the future use of the 217-acre former Northfield Mount Hermon School campus, the Planning Board has drafted a controlled growth bylaw.

The temporary, one-year bylaw would allow no more than six living units, be they apartments or single-family homes, to be built during its span. Additionally, it would allow no one entity to build more than two units during that year.

The bylaw would expire on June 30, 2014. The Planning Board would propose an updated version of the bylaw at the 2014 annual town meeting.

There are several capital articles also on Monday’s warrant.

The Fire Department is asking for $100,000 toward the purchase of a new fire truck. The Police Department seeks $36,000 to replace a 2006 Chevrolet Impala cruiser, or, failing that, $4,500 to fix the vehicle.

Capital school projects come in at $18,980 for alarms, a faucet hydrant, and well pumps at Pioneer, $26,000 for burglar and fire alarms and heating, ventilation and air conditioning work in the district central offices, and $10,000 to calibrate heating controls in the elementary school.

Residents will be asked to borrow not more than $35,000 for a generator for the wastewater treatment plant, and $25,000 for a sludge tank and other equipment needed at the plant.

The Planning Board asks for an additional $5,000, to be used to facilitate increased public participation in the ongoing master planning process.

The town could participate in a discounted solar electricity credit purchasing plan if another article passes. It would grant the Selectboard the authority to enter into contracts to purchase renewable energy credits, which would offset the town’s electric bill on a month-to-month basis. The town has been approached by Hampshire Solar, a division of the Hampshire Council of Governments, to participate in their energy credit program.

Hampshire Solar’s provider, North Andover-based Nexamp, would require a 20-year contract to sell credits to Northfield, and promises a 21 percent savings on electricity rates through the life of the contract.

Stearns said the capital articles on the warrant have all been approved by the Finance Committee.

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