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Buckland OKs school, town budget

BUCKLAND — Annual town meeting voters Wednesday night approved the town’s requested $1.59 million operating budget and also voted the Mohawk Trail Regional School District’s full $1.8 million assessment request.

The Finance Committee originally recommended not approving Mohawk’s $50,000 assessment increase, but reconsidered on town meeting floor. Chairwoman Dena Willmore said the committee objected to the way an $80,000 increase was added into the eight-town school budget at a late point in the budget process. Willmore said officials should have found the money to restore French and Peer Leadership courses to Mohawk without tacking the expense onto the towns.

“But we’re not going to defeat this dollar amount, because it’s more important for the schools to have a budget,” said Willmore. “But we’ve got to rethink how we will provide quality education in the future.”

Buckland school board member Christopher Skelly said he had never seen so many parents and school students come to a budget hearing to raise concerns about a curriculum issue before. He said he hopes school families will continue to be involved. Ashfield and Shelburne finance committees had also not recommended their school assessments, although those annual town meeting voters did support Mohawk’s full request.

Residents agreed to spend $35,000 to buy a new police vehicle to replace the police department’s oldest Crown Victoria, which is costing about $3,000 per year in repairs and maintenance.

They also agreed to pay up to $158,000 for a new Highway Department truck. The requested Highway Department truck is a single-axle dump truck, with an all-season body and power-reversing snow plow. It is to replace a 1995 dump truck that is in extremely bad condition.

Residents agreed to let Selectmen enter into a renewable energy agreement for solar energy-related net metering credits.

There was lengthy discussion on whether a $2,111 increase requested for a library assistant’s additional hours at the Arms Library should instead be used for an assistant at the Buckland Public Library. One resident argued that the BPL needed that staffing more than the Arms. His amendment was ultimately defeated after Selectman Cheryl Dukes pointed out that both libraries make their budget requests ahead of time, and not on town meeting floor. Also, both libraries had roughly $2,000 increases in their budget requests, although for different expenditures.

Residents agreed — but not unanimously — to extend the town’s moratoriums through June 2014 on construction of any wind turbine or large-scale photovoltaic systems for another year, to give the Planning Board more time to present appropriate bylaws.

Voters approved a resolution asking Baystate Health Systems officials to commit to keeping Baystate Franklin Medical Center a “full-service community hospital.”

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